Thursday, October 30, 2014

4 Letter of Recommendation Mistakes I Managed to Avoid

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When I think of letters of rec, I can only picture my AP Language teacher’s whiteboard, where he listed the names of seniors who approached him for a letter of recommendation. Throughout the first few weeks of senior year, the list grew alarmingly quickly, until people were in his room desperately begging for him to write them a letter.

You don’t want to be one of those people! Here are the strategies I used to escape common letter of recommendation blunders:

Not Putting in the Preparation

The end of junior year and the summer before senior year is a good time to start seriously considering which teachers you’ll be submitting letters of recommendation from. Although state schools (such as the University of California schools) are usually too overloaded to take supplementary materials like letters of rec, many private schools require 2 letters. They can be from teachers, club advisors, or other staff members.

You’ll want to keep questions like these in mind:

  • What subject does my teacher teach? Is it similar or relevant to what I want to major in?

  • How long ago did I take a class with this teacher (if applicable)?

  • Does this teacher know my strengths (i.e. in group projects, in participation in class)?

  • Do I think this teacher understands me enough to accurately represent me to the admissions officers of my dream school?

If the answers are “yes” and seem generally positive, go for it! That’s probably the teacher for you. Try to pick teachers that teach subjects in different departments to show you’re good at more than one thing, if possible, and recent teachers are preferred because their impressions of you are at their freshest. Knowing who you’ll ask will make the actual asking much easier.

Putting It Off Too Long

Going back to my AP Lang teacher, I remember people asking him to write for them even after he stopped taking requests – they’d waited too long to ask, and often were turned away and had to fall back on a teacher who knew them less, or taught them too long ago (again, bad preparation!).

It’s not too early to ask during the first week of school. My personal trick was that I actually sent my teachers an email during the first couple days and then went to their classroom to ask, “Did you see my email about the letter of rec?” That way, you can segue easily into your request instead of struggling to express what you need on the spot. Once you get the conversation out on the table and your teacher says yes, you’ll be one step closer to finishing your college applications.

Not Being Polite and Respectful

Teachers don’t get paid for writing letters of recommendation. It’s not part of their job description, meaning they aren’t obliged to write anything for anyone. But still they do, because they care about you seniors and want to help you get into the college of your dreams!

Keeping that in mind, when you ask for this very important favor, treat your teacher with the respect they’re due. Luckily, I haven’t seen anyone demand a letter of recommendation in a straight-up rude manner, but it’s easy for some students to fall into the mindset that writing a letter is something teachers owe them. Reality check: it’s not, so act accordingly.

Not Following Up

With so many letters to write, it’s not difficult for a teacher to miss one letter of rec in the flurry of students and memories and half-finished letter drafts. It’s your responsibility to make sure your teacher(s) write your letter of recommendation and sent it in to all of the schools on your list that require a rec.

Some teachers may ask for you to fill a form out or explain to them some specific moments or assignments during which you shined or showed your strengths. You should get back to them with a completed form as soon as possible – I did when both of my teachers asked for those. They’re human, and won’t possibly remember every stellar moment for every student they ever teach. (For you non-seniors, keep track of these moments throughout your high school years so you can bring them up later.

Once your teacher does finish and send in your letters, you can’t forget to thank them! A hand-written card and generous gift is the perfect way to show your appreciation for your teacher’s hard work.

Seniors, have you gotten your letters of recommendation yet? Why are you asking your particular teachers? Tell us in a comment below.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Volunteer Scholarships

Volunteer Scholarships

November is the ideal time for community service. Thanksgiving reminds us to give back to others, you’re conveniently on holiday break from school and it’s great for your college applications.

Plus, community service offers a wide range of activities which you can do with the family, bringing you closer together.

As if that’s not enough incentive to spend your extra time volunteering, many scholarship providers seek to reward students who spend their time giving back to their communities with scholarship funding to help pay for school.

Check out the following scholarship opportunities for students involved in volunteering and find out how giving back to your community is actually beneficial to you as well!

James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship

Award Amount: $50,000

Deadline: December 15, 2014

Available to: Entering College Freshman

The James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship is available to entering college freshmen in the U.S. and Canada.

You must have a minimum 3.3 GPA and a minimum 25 ACT / 1700 SAT score to be eligible for this award.

You must also demonstrate substantial work experience and an active leadership role in community service, athletics, and / or similar co-curricular activity.

Learn more about the James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship.

Imagine America High School Scholarship

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: December 31, 2015

Available to: High School Senior to College Freshman

The Imagine America High School Scholarship is available to high school seniors and recent graduates who are planning to enroll in a career college.

You must have a minimum 2.5 GPA, demonstrate financial need, and participate in voluntary community service to be eligible for this award.

Learn more about the Imagine America High School Scholarship.

Gates Millennium Scholars Program

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 14, 2015

Available to: College Freshman

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program is open to African - American, American Indian / Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students who are citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents of the United States.

You must be an entering, full - time, degree - seeking, first - year student and have a minimum 3.3 GPA; or have earned a GED to be considered for this award.

You must also demonstrate significant financial need (meet the federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria) and exhibit leadership abilities through community service, extracurricular, or other activities.

Learn more about the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.

$10,000 Teach Seniors Technology Scholarship

Award Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 20, 2015

Available to: Maximum Age 26

Get this: 40% of seniors don't use the Internet. At all. This can leave them disconnected from loved ones and lead to feelings of isolation and depression.

This October, has teamed up with AARP Foundation's Mentor Up Program to launch the second year of the Grandparents Gone Wired campaign, which asks young people to help seniors stay connected to family and friends by teaching a grandparent or other elderly adult how to use current tech trends like smartphones, social media, video chat, and email.

Participants can not only improve the life of a senior citizen, but earn a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship for school.

Learn more about the $10,000 Teach Seniors Technology Scholarship.

Truman Scholarship

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: February 3, 2015

Available to: College Juniors

The Truman Scholarship is available to full - time juniors interested in a career in public service who intend to pursue a master's degree, a doctorate, or a professional degree in a public service - related field.

You must have participated extensively in two or more of the following activities sets: student government and / or campus - based extracurricular activities; community service - related activities that were not organized by your school or your fraternity / sorority; government internships, commissions or boards, advocacy or interest groups, nonpartisan political activities or military/ROTC; or partisan political activities and campaigns.

Selection will also be based on leadership potential, high grades, and a strong curriculum.

Recipients of this award are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of their graduate degrees.

Learn more about the Truman Scholarship.

Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship

Award Amount: $1,750

Deadline: April 1, 2015

Available to: College Freshman

The Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship is available to graduating seniors from Maine public high schools.

To be eligible, you must be a legal resident of Maine and demonstrate academic performance/potential, community service and financial need.

Learn more about the Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship.

East Villagers Service Scholar Essay and Art Contest

Award Amount: $500

Deadline: May 4, 2015

Available to: High School Freshman through High School Senior

The East Villagers Service Scholar Essay and Art Contest is available to high school students in the U.S. and Canada who have completed at least five hours of community service.

You must respond to an essay prompt or submit a work of fine art, digital art, photography, or video that inspires service or captures an inspirational moment of service.

Learn more about the East Villagers Service Scholar Essay and Art Contest.

Strings Magazine Edith Eisler Scholarship Award

Award Amount: $3,000

Deadline: May 15, 2015

Available to: College Freshman through College Senior

The Strings Magazine Edith Eisler Scholarship Award is available to high school seniors and undergraduate students majoring in music education. You must play violin, viola, cello, or bass to be eligible for this award. You must also demonstrate financial need, academic merit, and a history of community service.

Learn more about the Strings Magazine Edith Eisler Scholarship Award.

City Year – Volunteer for America

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

Available to: College Freshman through Graduate Student, Year 5

City Year, a proud member of AmeriCorps, is a national service organization that brings together young adults from diverse backgrounds for a demanding ten months of full-time community service, leadership development, and civic engagement.

In 20 locations across the United States, these young leaders invest their talents and energy to address our country's most critical needs. City Year corps members engage others in service and make a positive difference in their communities and in the lives of children and youth. Corps members also receive a weekly living stipend and basic health insurance.

Eligibility Requirements: Must be between the ages of 17-24 and a United States citizen or permanent resident alien. High school graduate/G.E.D. recipient OR agreement to pursue a G.E.D.

If you do not have a H.S. diploma or its equivalency, you will be required to take a basic academic proficiency test; your position is contingent upon satisfactory testing results.

Learn more about the City Year – Volunteer for America.

Bonner Scholars Award

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

Available to: Ages 17-18

The Bonner Scholars Award is available to entering first-year students at participating colleges (a complete list of participating schools is located on the Bonner Foundation Web site).

You must demonstrate high financial need and have an interest in community service and social justice issues to be eligible for this award.

Bonner Scholars will be expected to serve an average of 10 hours of community service each week during the school year and participate in other Bonner Scholars activities.

Learn more about the Bonner Scholars Award.

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Top 10 Thanksgiving Episodes

Top 10 Thanksgiving Episodes

We laugh, we cry, we know them inside and out. The characters become family and, sometimes, we feel like know them better than we know ourselves.

Yep, nothing compares to your T.V. favorites. Here's our list, in no particular order, of our favorite Turkey Day-centered television. [gate]

1. “Friends”: "Friends" packed in more than a mouthful during its classic Thanksgiving Day episodes. “The One with All the Thanksgivings” & “The One with the Rumor” gave us moments we’ll surely never forget.

We’re sure you have your favorites including the Geller cup; fat-to-thin Monica; Chandler loses a toe; Rachel makes that disgusting trifle; Chandler in a box; Joey and Monica both put turkeys on their heads (in different situations, of course); Brad Pitt guest-stars as President of the “I hate Rachel Green” club and reveals he and Ross were in cahoots and spread a nasty rumor about her; Joey eats a whole turkey and Phoebe is 19th century medic.

Let’s not forget the touching moments, too, like when Chandler tells Monica he loves her and, in a later episode, the couple finally gets the news that they are able to adopt a baby.

Jam-packed with an array of emotions, humor being the most prominent, these episodes leave viewers with a whole lot to be thankful for.

2. “How I Met Your Mother”: There’s talk that "How I Met Your Mother" is competing with "Friends" as the modern day Thanksgiving episodes sitcom classic. We won’t pick favorites between the two, but you surely can.

Episodes “Slapsgiving: Part I” and “Slapsgiving: Part II” entertain to the max as Marshall torments Barney with the threat of the last slap from their “slap bet”; the awkwardness that ensues between Ted and Robin’s awkward breakup; unwanted family moments; weird board games; Lily’s determinedness to have a perfect Thanksgiving; Barney volunteers in a soup kitchen and the ultimate Thanksgiving treat of Robin’s music video, "Let's Go to the Mall."

All this wit grouped into two mere episodes is more than one can bear. Well, almost.

3. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”: Who doesn't love any story involving good old Charlie Brown? "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is no exception in our book.

Charlie and the gang need to come together and throw a fancy feast together oh-so-quickly when Peppermint Patty invites herself over.

The instant classic will undoubtedly give you the warm and fuzzies. If not, you’ll at least get a kick out of the impressions you and other Thanksgiving guests will undoubtedly take on, in imitating the adult characters’ “wah wah” conversations.

4. “Seinfeld”: Many other shows put the mockery aside to pay tribute to the Thanksgiving holiday, loading us up with a sappy dose of what show did I just watch? Not Seinfeld.

We’d, of course, expect awkwardness at its finest, with a dollop of cynicism to serve up viewing perfection.

“The Mom & Pop Store” episode contains classic situations like Jerry obsessively trying to figure out if his invited to an annual Pre-Thanksgiving party; Kramer tries to save a shoe-repair shop; George buys the infamous convertible he thinks was once owned by Jon Voight, the actor; and Elaine wins a radio contest, letting Mr. Pitt be in the Macy’s Day Parade. The highlight, of course, is when Jerry accidentally deflates one of the Macy’s Parade floats.

5. “South Park”: Politically correct? Never. But, isn't that what we love most about this amazingly insubordinate genre?

“Starvin' Marvin” classically illustrates this through a starving Ethiopian child, one of the best Bravehart parodies you’ll ever see, genetically-modified turkeys that aim to kill and, who could forget, Sally Struthers.

You may say it’s wrong, but the saving grace that makes us feel human again is that the boys do learn life lessons. Justified.

6. “Everybody Loves Raymond”: Debra takes a stand (shocking, we know) and makes tofurkey (tofu turkey) because it's healthier, with Marie’s support.

The family is up in arms with the healthier spread and Ray secretly orders a real turkey with trimmings to boot, which is recipe for disaster with Debra.

Everyone gives into the “real” meal in the end, opting for deliciousness over health. We can’t say we blame them.

7. “Will & Grace”: "Will & Grace" gave us plenty to be thankful for, but "Homo for the Holidays" was a treasure we may never forget.

The episode revolves around Jack revealing that he still hasn't come out to his mother—and the crew being forced to awkwardly attempt to keep the secret as a result. More family secrets are revealed as the holiday progresses and hilarity ensures, per usual.

8. “New Girl”: Dubbed the potential “Friends” of the millennials, “New Girl” offers a lovable episode entitled “Thanksgiving,” where Jess takes an Amelia Bedelia-esque approach to the meal when she tries to thaw a turkey in the dryer; Schmidt exposes his anal retentive side to Cece in the kitchen, who may or may not like that side of him; the gang learns their elderly neighbor has died in a rather interesting way and Paul, a male version of Jess, is introduced (played by Justin Long).

9. “The Simpsons”: Bart takes on Thanksgiving in the self-explanatory title, "Bart vs. Thanksgiving," but things turn around once he gives up and apologizes to Lisa, his sister, for ruining Thanksgiving and the family actually is able to enjoy a meal together. How touching.

10. “Dexter”: Not all Thanksgivings are made of cranberry sauce and pie, which we find out during the "Hungry Man" episode, when Dexter decides to spend Thanksgiving with the Trinity killer’s family.

Dexter gets more than he bargained for when Trinity’s antics ruining the meal, ending with Dexter attacking Trinity, forcing him to the ground in a choke-hold to protect the family.

They didn't seem very thankful for the guest defending them. How awkward that “thanks for coming, let’s do it again soon” must have been.

Do you have any Thanksgiving episode favorites we forgot? If so, we'd love to hear them!

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Top 10 Places to Give Back

Top 10 Places to Give Back

Searching for meaning in the season of giving? If you want to give back, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

Volunteering can be as easy—and enjoyable—as pie if you seek out the right opportunities. [gate]

Are you a people person? The next Top Chef? Whatever your strengths, put them to good use this holiday season by sharing them with those in need, making a difference in the meantime.

Check out our suggestions of places always in need of you do-gooders: [gate]

1. Homeless Shelters are in constant need of volunteers, especially during the holiday season. It may be through meal service assistance or, even, as a visitor to lend an ear to someone who may be suffering and deliver some needed conversation and companionship.

2. Soup Kitchens are always looking for onsite volunteers for set-up and clean-up, cooks and, of course, people to provide a warm atmosphere that will allow the homeless to have a Thanksgiving meal that can enjoy with the dignity and respect they deserve.

3. A Food Bank needs help organizing donation drives, collecting and assembling collected items for food bag or box donations for those in need. They usually also need assistance with packing trucks and delivering items, as well as volunteer transportation.

4. A Nursing Home is a great place to volunteer since many elderly people experience loneliness and isolation among the holiday season, especially if they don’t have families to share it with. Nursing homes always welcome volunteers to socialize and visit with residents and, during the holiday season, may host events, such as Thanksgiving meals or meet-and-greets, where you can volunteer in other ways. For example, show off that special musical talent and tickle those ivories for some elders. They’ll appreciate it more than you can imagine.

5. Animal Shelters are often forgotten about on most holidays, but animals need care on those days, too. If you prefer friends of the four–legged variety, you can still volunteer. Shelters can always use volunteers ready to give out some extra attention and TLC to these seemingly forgotten fur balls. Jobs are readily available taking care of the animals, playing with them, cleaning up after them or, if you’re looking for a slightly longer commitment, fostering a rescue animal over the holidays. If you love animals, there are always opportunities to help those in need.

6. A Domestic Violence and/or Women and Children’s Shelter is a wonderful place to volunteer, especially if you love children. Domestic Violence Shelters often need assistance with looking after children in the program while staff members work one-on-one with the women discussing adult issues. Often times, aiding these mothers with their children gives them some much needed relief of the overwhelming stresses they've been experiencing, particularly if they family has been suffering during the holidays.

7. A Church, Temple, Mosque or Any Other Religious Location usually hosts holiday meals for those in need or the elderly and donation drives they will likely need assistance with. Most religious locations will accommodate any last minute volunteers, so no worries if you haven’t planned ahead.

8. Hospitals can be scary, especially when you’re all alone. As long as hospitals will always have inpatients that could use visitors, there will always be a need for caring and compassionate volunteers. A simple visit can steer away the lonely holiday days and help brighten theirs—as well as your own.

9. A Community Center or other government location often hosts events like community meals for those in need or the elderly, donation drives to food banks or shelters and, even telethons or walks and races for great causes within the community.

10. Colleges and Other Schools often host community dinners and are in need of volunteers to help with cooking, cleaning, service and transport for local senior citizens or can host holiday events for organizations, like local women and children’s shelters or domestic violence shelters.

Do you have any other suggestions you'd add to our list?

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Student Volunteer Opportunities

Student Volunteer Opportunities

As a student, it’s easy to get caught up in your own life, between studies, your scholarship search, extracurricular activities and, of course, your avid social life.

Take some time this year to pause and reflect on what you’re thankful for. Now is the time, especially during the holiday season, to give thanks for everything great in your life.

Check out these great ideas students can utilize to give back to the community:

Organize or Give to a Blood Drive

Giving blood is an easy way to save lives. You’re giving away time and, obviously, blood, so we vote it counts for volunteer work, too.

Can’t or don’t want to donate blood? You still can help organize and volunteer at local blood drives.

Check out The Red Cross for more information on drives near you.


Can you think of a better way to give back than coaching kids? Everyone, at some point or another, had a coach and those that were great really impacted our lives. You can become one!

Check out the following organizations who would love to have you join their team:

National Alliance for Youth Sports

Girls on the Run



Imagine being in a country without knowing the language – where nobody else seems to know your native tongue. That’s what it’s like for millions of Americans whose second language is English. Make their transition to English easier by volunteering.

You can learn more about teaching English as a second language (ESL) here.

Become a Role Model

There are so many organizations nationally that arrange mentoring relationships for children in need. If you’re interested in mentoring someone, check out the following programs, available nationwide:

Big Brothers, Big Sisters

National Mentor Partnership

National Mentoring Alliance

Experience Corps


There are endless organizations to volunteer for, whether your preference is adults or children, animals or humans, working with people or at events, there’s a right fit for you!

Here are some popular organizations to consider when evaluating what type of volunteering is right for you:

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals


Big Brothers, Big Sisters

The Red Cross

The Humane Society of the United States

Meals on Wheels Association of America

Volunteers of America

How do you give back to your community?

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The Importance of Extracurriculars

The Importance of Extracurriculars

It’s easy to get caught up in the academic aspects of a college application, spending every spare second focusing on your grades.

With so many educational commitments, it can be tempting to drop everything else in order to maintain your grade point average. However, colleges like to see other aspects on the application in addition to academics. They love extracurriculars.

Every student, whether a freshman or a senior, needs to factor in time for extracurricular activities. By taking a little time to prepare, students can juggle school, extracurriculars, and college admissions simultaneously and achieve that well-rounded look that every college dreams about.

Time to Sign Up

At the beginning of the school year, students should be aware of the extracurricular options available to them. Freshmen, this is the perfect time to explore. By the time you are a junior or senior, you should be able to narrow down your extracurricular activities to a few key favorites. Seek out activities with opportunities for service and leadership – these are key qualities to have under your belt come time for college. Try some new things and go out of your comfort zone.

If you’re stuck for ideas or have limited options, start your own club or organization. Dig in deep and involve yourself as much as you can handle. Your persistence will pay off.

Time to Decide

By the end of sophomore year, students should start to focus in on a couple of key extracurriculars. In order to really become a leader and stand out in your activity, you have to prioritize and that might mean cutting out a few activities. Pick two or three other clubs/activities to really commit yourself to. Talk to your leaders for ideas on gaining leadership opportunities within your activities. Plan outings or service projects with your team. Show colleges what you’re passionate about and prove it with the depth of your involvement.

Time to Apply

Uh-oh. It is senior year and you are reading this for the first time. It’s time to apply to college and maybe your list of extracurriculars isn’t as long as you’d like. However, there’s still hope. Redemption can be found in your essay.

Your college essay is the perfect time to highlight a particular strength or interest you have that may not appear in your extracurriculars. Perhaps it is a hobby like writing or even listening to music. Write your essay in a way that demonstrates that you have not just been slacking off outside of school, that your mind and body have still been active. Specify your strengths, interests, and personality and the lack of extracurricular activities will be forgotten.

The whole point of extracurricular activities is to demonstrate that you have more in you than academics. Otherwise, on paper, you seem like a robot – not someone admissions personnel can relate to and certainly not someone they want at their school.

Extracurricular activities show leadership, service, and dedication, all admirable qualities in a college student. Whether you are signing up for activities freshman year or writing your first draft of your college essay, you need to keep this in mind and consider all the advantages to extracurricular activities.

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Roommate Relationship Maintenance Tips

Roommate Relationship Maintenance Tips

As we come to the middle of the semester, you’ll probably find that you’ve adjusted to life away from home and the familiar. I hope that it’s become easier to get yourself to class each day, practice study skills and make friends, but if not, never fear! There is still plenty of time to find your way.

For many people, one of the hardest aspects of moving to college is the part where they have to share a room with a stranger. It can be difficult to work out the ins and outs of sharing a tiny room with another person, especially if you have always had your own room at home. And while it’s good to have at least a decent working relationship with your new acquaintance, you’re definitely not required to become best friends.

It’s likely that at some point during your time together, no matter whether you’re close friends or civil acquaintances with your roommate, you will need some time apart—and it’s always a good idea to give your roommate some space, too. Pack up your backpack for a couple hours each week when you know the other person will be in the room and make your study station (or gaming station, or Netflix station) portable.

On that note, there’s also no shame in requesting that your roommate return the favor. Even if it doesn't come up at the beginning of the semester, and even if you both agree that it’ll never become an issue, it’s still a good policy to have in place—at the very least, you’ll have opened the door for neutral communication about your needs.

Everybody wants a little space now and then just to chill, and having a regular schedule for it will keep your relationship from dying a slow death from passive-aggression and bottled-up frustration.

If you’re comfortable, consider sharing major health issues you might have with your roommate, especially if they’re likely to come up during the course of the year. Telling your bunk-mate that you have a life-threatening peanut allergy will keep them from potentially endangering your life, and alerting them that you’ve had seizures in the past will prompt them to research how to care for someone who’s experiencing one. You certainly don’t have to disclose any info you don’t want to, but it could help you both out and lift a little pressure off your own shoulders.

If you find yourself rooming with someone you knew back in high school, you may discover that living with a close friend right off the bat isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

One of my older friends moved to college with a buddy from high school and, while they were best friends at home, they found that their study habits, sleeping patterns, cleaning preferences and general attitudes towards the college experience were vastly different. Their friendship disintegrated and by the end of their freshman year, they were no more than civil to each other.

Before you commit to life with your bestie in a cramped 12x19-foot space, make a list of your habits and pet peeves and have your potential roommate do the same. Compare and contrast, and if there are marked differences, find a way to compromise, decide that it won’t be such a big deal or just decide not to live together.

You don’t want to risk having a strong friendship dissolve over a molehill becoming a mountain—your friend’s quirky love of listening to polka music and practicing her triple steps at all hours of the night is adorable when you’re not living together, but I guarantee that it will get frustrating when it wakes you up at 4:30 in the morning.

No matter whether you’ve known your roommate since kindergarten or met on move-in day, a good strategy for maintaining a decent relationship is setting up parameters for what you can tolerate and what is allowed in your room—and put this in writing! My school required all freshmen to fill out a roommate agreement with our bunkmates and turn it in to our resident advisers, so that if a problem came up, we would have documentation of our rules.

Whether or not you end up absolutely loving your roommate, I hope that you both find ways to adjust to being in college and that you are able to lean on each other during your first year. Remember that it’s never too late to put some of these strategies to work!

What are your tried-and-true ways to deal with or avoid roommate conflicts? What was your relationship with your freshman roommate like?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Holidays and Headaches

Holidays and Headaches

By this time in the semester, you have gotten used to being a (somewhat) responsible adult. Your independence away from home has toughened you up and made you sharper. From doing your own laundry to setting up your own appointments (without crying, of course), you are embracing your freedom and individuality.

But there comes a time when you start to dream of the smell of your mom’s homemade cookies. You miss the comfort of snuggling in your bed with your pets. You wish to see your friends from home and catch up on all the missed time.

And, for some odd reason, you want to hear the same dull dad joke from you old man because, though you’ve heard it a thousand times, hearing it once more confirms that life hasn't changed all that much.

The holidays are approaching towards us quickly and that means visiting family and friends back at home. Though you’re excited to see everyone and you’ve missed them terribly, relatives tend to make this time a little more stressful than it needs to be. Constant house visits, the never ending river of questions, the fighting between your siblings, and nagging from the parents make this holiday seem more like a battlefield.

We’ve all been there and we know how it feels. You love them to death but they are going to be the death of you before you even have a chance to step back on campus after break.

So, how do you fix the love-hate relationships dealing with family and the holidays? All you have to do is remember these three important things:

They’re Your Family

Yes, they will be embarrassing and give you headaches. Yes, they will make you wonder how messed up your gene pool really is. No, they will never stop loving you and that’s because they’re your family. From drunken uncles to older sisters to annoying cousins, these people know you and love you more than anyone else will. And, truth is, you love them, too.

So, listen to that story your aunt has told a thousand times. Stop fighting with your little sister about who gets to use the shower first. Sit and answer all these awkward questions your mother keeps drilling at you (she just really misses you a lot). Let them you know that you care about them, no matter how crazy they are.

Enjoy It While You Still Can

Harsh as it may seem, you may never get these chances again. The fun you have with your family right now can become a thing of the past. Friends grow apart and move on with their lives. You begin to have more responsibilities and getting back home seems harder each year. Relatives are getting older and, one day, you will wish that you had spent more time with them.

You need to cherish these little moments in life like they are all you have. Sure, it seems like hell now and you are restraining yourself from pulling your hair out. But, believe me when I say, you will look back at these moments years from now and be glad you had them when you did.

It’ll All Be Over Soon

Even looking at the bright side of holidays with the holidays with relatives, you’re still feeling a little like the Grinch. But, who can actually blame you? You’ve sat here and watched the same Charlie Brown Christmas special for the last decade. You hate it when the family asks why you aren’t dating anyone yet. And, if you have to swallow your Aunt Jenna’s famous pig’s feet casserole one more time, you’re going to be sick.

Stop being such a drama queen. You only have a few days’ worth of this. Once this is all over, you can go back to your dorm and be as free as you were before. So, just take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

It’ll be over sooner than you think. And then you’ll actually miss it.

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5 Myths about Financial Aid

5 Myths about Financial Aid

Let’s be honest about something: financial aid is tricky, confusing and overwhelming. As is with all things complicated, it’s easy to see why students and parents alike believe everything they’re told about the process. Unfortunately, that means students are told a lot of “falsehoods.” One of the best things students and parents can do for their financial aid chances is to know how the truth stands up against the untruths.

Myth #1: I won’t qualify for aid.

This is perhaps the biggest and most believed myth about financial aid. While there are individuals with income thresholds that won’t receive financial aid, it’s imperative that these families still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Firstly, every single student, regardless of their parents’ income, qualifies for unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans just by filling out the FAFSA.

Second, aid dollars can never be predicted; and with that, students and their parents may as well fill out an application to see if they qualify for aid. Finally, you never know when your family’s financial circumstances will change. Loss of job or divorce can take a toll on income and assets. Wouldn’t it be nice if your financial aid office had your FAFSA on hand to see how they could help you pay for college?

Myth #2: I can declare myself as an independent student.

You may be living on your own without any financial support, but does that make you an independent student by financial aid standards? Hardly. The federal government has a very strict definition of what makes a student independent: he or she must be older than 24, married, serving in the armed forces or financially responsible for a dependent.

Unfortunately, the federal government dictates that if a student is less than 24, his or her parents are responsible for paying for their education – whether or not your parents actually can is another matter.

Myth #3: I didn’t qualify for aid the first time, so I won’t qualify again.

Just as circumstances change, so does financial aid. As stated earlier, a job loss or divorce can have an impact on whether or not a student is determined eligible for aid. And in most cases, this new state of eligibility is determined through less drastic circumstances. For instance, if a family has two students enrolled in college at the same time, both of those students may then be eligible for financial aid. With that in mind, students and their families should apply for financial aid with the FAFSA every day.

Myth #4: I shouldn’t accept a financial aid package with any self-help.

Many families hear “student loans” and automatically reject the financial aid package – as well as the school. The truth is that student loans have the lowest interest rates of any type of loan, and while you hear horror stories of students graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, that’s not necessarily the reality.

Financial aid experts will instruct borrowers not to acquire an amount of student debt that is more than their expected starting salary after graduation. Also, borrowers should attempt to pay the interest while they’re in school, which will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars after graduation. The trick to tackling a financial aid package with student loans is to borrow smartly.

Also, keep in mind that self-help comes in the form of work study jobs too. These on-campus work opportunities enable students to work to pay down their tuition bill during school, making the task of paying off any debt after school a lot simpler.

Myth #5: I can’t appeal my financial aid package.

When you get your very official looking financial aid package, it may seem as if there is no compromise or ability to appeal. Fortunately, that’s not true either. While you can’t make changes to the FAFSA at that point, financial aid officers are always willing to work with students and their parents to make paying for their dream school possible.

Oftentimes, financial aid officers can find ways to add to the financial aid package. Plus, a little known secret to the outside world is what is referred to by professionals in the space as “summer melt.” As students decide during the summer months that they really don’t want to go to a particular college – or to college at all – their financial aid at that school becomes available. Some families are able to benefit from this sudden allowance of financial aid if they contact the school and ask about any further available financial aid opportunities in July.

Yes, applying for financial aid can be baffling, but that doesn’t mean you should fall for the myths that we so often hear. If you do, your ability to pay for the school you really want to attend could be in jeopardy. So before you make any hard decisions, make sure you’re working with the truth about financial aid and paying for school.

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How to Handle a Telephone Interview

How to Handle a Telephone Interview

When applying to jobs, some companies will select you to do a telephone interview, prior to doing a face-to-face interview.

Telephone interviews save employers time because it allows them to screen applicants before bringing them into the office.

During the telephone interview, the open position is explained in more detail, and questions are asked about past work experience and salary requirements may be discussed.

Here are some things you can do if you have received a request for a telephone interview.

Be available:

If you receive an email or a telephone call from a recruiter asking to schedule a telephone interview, it is imperative that you agree on a time when you know you will be available.

If the recruiter says they will call you on Tuesday, at 11am, then you need to be by your phone and ready to speak.

You should set aside at least 30 minutes of time where you will be uninterrupted. Your environment needs to be free of background noise and distractions.

Reschedule ahead of time:

If for some reason you find that you will not be able to speak with the recruiter in a quiet area at the scheduled time, you should let the recruiter know this as soon as possible.

Do not wait until the recruiter is calling at the scheduled time to tell them that you can’t talk.

This is seen as rude and may mess up your chances of moving forward in the interview process.

Answer the phone:

Do not ignore the recruiter’s call. If you have a telephone interview scheduled for an agreed upon time and date, then you need to answer the phone.

Saying that you forgot, or something else came up, will surely ruin your chances of landing the job.

Be prepared:

Before your telephone interview, you should prepare for it.

Have your resume in front of you so that you can discuss your past work experience. Jot down some answers to potential questions on a sheet of paper.

Also, write some questions about the position or the company that you can ask the recruiter at the end of the call.

Have some references ready, in case they are asked for. You should have each of your reference’s name, job title, telephone number and email address printed out in front of you.

Be professional:

Though it may seem less formal than a face-to-face interview because you cannot see the person interviewing you, a telephone interview is just as important.

Be sure to use a professional tone when speaking to the interviewer. You will be judged on your telephone communication skills.

Ask thoughtful questions, and give examples that highlight how your past work experience translates to the job you are interviewing for.

Don’t forget to use proper telephone etiquette for the entirety of the call, using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when appropriate.

Remember, what you say during your telephone interview directly affects whether or not you get to move forward in the interview process.

It is important to impress the interviewer with your promptness, preparedness, and professionalism.

Using the above tips will help you to not only make a good first impression, but also move forward in your interview process.

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November Checklist for High School Juniors

November Checklist for High School Juniors

November is an important prep time for high school juniors, and we’re not just talking about turkey dinner, either.

From this point on, every move you make matters.

Not that it didn't before - but, what we’re referring to here, are your academic footprint and your decision making processes.

You need to focus more than ever before on your studies, which classes you choose to take and how much you devote to preparing for standardized testing and college research outside the classroom.

Here’s a checklist to help you keep track of what to do during the November of your junior year in high school to stay on top of your college preparation and planning processes:

• Work to stay on track in your classes and keep your grades up.

Even if you’re not at that top of your class, that’s ok. Continual improvement is what is most important. Always remember that colleges love to see upward trends!
• Meet with your counselor.

When you meet with your counselor, discuss college options, standardized testing, your class rank and any other concerns you may have regarding your college admissions and planning processes.

Plan to meet with your counselor to touch base at least once each semester to ensure you’re on track with the college planning process.

• Create a standardized testing plan.

Work with your counselor to form a testing plan so you know which standardized tests you plan to take (based on which schools you are going to be applying to) and which standardized test he or she would recommend.

Also, discuss which preparatory measures he or she would recommend you take and when you should begin studying (we recommend the sooner, the better).

Make sure to make any important registration deadline dates so that you don’t miss them. Also, ensure you have more than enough time to prepare for each exam and account for any retakes you may want.

• Start to think about and evaluate your college options.

Ask where you fall within your class rank, your grades up until this point and your extracurricular activities.

Then, discuss the schools you’ve been thinking of applying to next year and whether or not those options are realistic given your current academic status.

• Create a college list.

Start a list of colleges that meet your basic criteria, such as: school size, location, majors you’re interested in studying and cost.

Once you have that list created, keep adding additional factors and weighing each aspect based on importance so that you have the list ranked. At this point, your college list can range anywhere from 10 to 20 schools.

• Research colleges you are interested in learning more about.

Start gathering more information about colleges you’re interested in by attending college fairs or college nights, talk to college representatives if they happen to visit your school or research colleges online independently.

This will help you narrow down your college list and may even add additional schools you hadn’t thought of to your list, which is perfectly alright – either way, it will lead you in the right direction to the right school!

• Continue to explore your interests.

This can be done through extracurricular activities, academic clubs, volunteering for related activities and clubs or through job shadowing or obtaining a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship in a profession that may interest you. By doing so, you can narrow down your career interests and potentially discover which colleges offer the majors and fields of study you may want to pursue.

Plus, if it happens to be a paid position, you can save for college!

• Stay involved in extracurricular activities.

Whether you’re already involved or just getting started, it’s important to be active in high school. Make sure you’re always involved in at least one or two extracurriculars – and stick with them!
• Create a college file to stay organized.

From now until the time you leave for college, piles of college documents and information on each school will accumulate. Keeping everything organized now will avoid chaos later. Start a file for your research so that you can keep track of what you find for each school. That way, you’ll know exactly where to look when you need to reference back to each school’s folder, which should also include any college catalogs and admissions information.
• Create an academic resume.

Consider creating an academic resume to include within your academic portfolio. Including an academic resume allows an admissions official to see your student information at a glance, including your education, honors, employment/internship experience as well as any special interests, volunteer or community service work and/or hobbies and passions.

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Considering AP or Dual Credit Courses: Pros and Cons

Considering AP or Dual Credit Courses: Pros and Cons

Building your schedule in high school can be a stressful time, especially if you’re a student that is trying to decide on whether or not to take AP or Duel Credit courses.

The pros and cons of these advanced classes are important to consider and the following list includes some of the most important pros and cons to remember when you are making your decision.


• Environment

Taking AP classes can be extremely beneficial for the environment alone, as you will be in class with most of the dedicated and hardworking students in your grade.

Although the classes are harder, it is undoubtedly a big plus to be in an environment with other students that want to work as hard as you do.

Sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to do school work in a regular class simply because of the lack of a dedicate mindset in the classroom.

• Class Rank/GPA

Taking advanced classes, at some schools, can also benefit your class rank and GPA in a positive way if your school is one that weights classes.

For example, I know that in my high school career, AP/Duel Credit classes added an extra ten points on to my GPA that calculated Class Rank, and it certainly helped motivate me to take as many advanced classes as possible.

• College Credit

Probably the most important benefit to taking college level classes in high school is the opportunity for college credit.

Whether you get automatic credit through a dual credit class, or credit by examination in an AP course, it is financially beneficial to you to get as many college hours as possible while in high school.


• Class Rank/GPA

Although you can look at the weighted GPA as a benefit, there is also a chance that it wouldn’t be enough of a grade boost to make a difference.

Sometimes, advanced classes are so hard that a regular student can outscore you even with the weighted addition to your grade. That’s an important aspect to keep in mind when making your decision.

• Additional Homework

In my high school career, the difference between outside homework for a regular class and an advanced class can be substantial. The homework is certainly more plentiful and you will be expected to do more work in a swift manner.

• Transfer of Credits

Another issue with Dual Credit classes is the possibility of the credits not transferring. If you end up attending an in-state college, the credits from your dual credit class will usually transfer.

However, out-of-state colleges don’t always accept those hours, so it is important to check with the college you plan on attending.

There are always pros and cons to the advanced class work you can take in college but, in the end, I would recommend doing so. The college credit I have gained from these classes will really pay off in the next year and will save me a lot of money down the road. Be sure to consider the cons before you make a decision!

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November Checklist for High School Seniors

November Checklist for High School Seniors

November is a pivotal time of year for high school seniors - and we’re not just talking turkey.

More than likely, it’s the month where any of your early admission applications are due. It’s also the month you need to start paying attention to upcoming deadlines for each college you’re planning to submit an application.

It’s important that you’re aware that deadlines seem to be moving up earlier and earlier each year. At one point, most colleges had deadlines in January and February. Now, some colleges have regular admission deadlines closer to early admission dates than regular admission dates!

Make sure that you have all of your deadlines clearly outlined on your calendar (don’t worry – this is on your checklist, too) so that you don’t miss any important deadlines for submitting your admission application, financial aid application and scholarship applications.

Here’s a checklist to help you keep track of what to do during the November of your senior year in high school to stay on top of your college admissions process:

• If you’ve decided to apply early admission to a particular school, finalize and send whichever early decision or early action applications are due this month.

Always make sure to have a parent, teacher, counselor or other adult review your application before it is submitted to get an extra set of eyes double checking everything is included that’s necessary!
• Finalize your application essays.

You've been working tirelessly on your college essays for quite some time (hopefully). It's time to finalize them. Allow some extra eyes to look over them for the last time - your parents, teachers or counselors would make great proofreaders.

Once they give your essay one last look, take their feedback into account but, remember, your essay should be yours. Your words. Your ultimate vision. As long as you are happy with the end product, that's what matters - it should ultimately reflect one thing: you.

• Find out your school’s procedures for sending official transcripts – and get the ball rolling.

All colleges you’re applying to will require your official high school transcripts, so make sure you know what your school’s policies are and get the ball rolling so that you school is able to send you official transcripts to the schools you’d like them to be sent to.
• Double check that testing companies have sent your scores directly to the colleges to which you are applying.

There’s no point in taking standardized tests if the schools you are applying to don’t know about it! Double check that your ducks are in a row and that your scores have been sent to all of the schools you are applying to.

Also, make sure you’ve checked beforehand that you’ve taken the right standardized tests for each college you’re applying since different colleges require different exams.

• If necessary, register to take or retake the SAT, SAT Subject Tests or ACT.

Do this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if this is still on your to do list!
• It’s time to finalize your college list.

Using all of the information you’ve gathered from your college visits, interviews with students and faculty, and your own independent research, it’s time to decide which schools you will be submitting applications to. Your number should fall somewhere between five and eight colleges.

Keep in mind that it is a good idea to apply to schools that you feel are a little bit more difficult (your reach schools) as well as schools that you’re sure you’ll get into (your safety schools). Once you have decided on your list, go over it with your guidance counselor, teachers, and parents about your decisions.

• Keep track of ALL deadlines.

This is the year of deadlines. And, since you will be filling out all sorts of forms this year, it’s important to know what form is due when. Create a “deadline calendar” showing the application deadlines for admission, financial aid and scholarships so that you’ll never miss a date.
• Start preparing your application materials and, when everything is in order, apply!

After you’ve decided which schools you’re going to apply to, the only thing left to do is apply! Note all instructions, criteria and deadlines so that your application is fully completed.

It’s also a great idea to have a parent, counselor or teacher look over your application to make sure there aren't any errors.

Ensure you follow all instructions and double check that all other materials have been submitted as well: recommendation letters, transcripts, test scores, etc. It’s also a great idea to make extra copies before you send them so that you can keep track of where you’ve applied already.

Applying before winter break may be a good plan so that you’re not rushing to meet deadlines over the holidays.

• Check in with your guidance counselor to ensure you’re on track for admissions requirements, graduation requirements and to discuss financial aid options.

You don’t want any bad surprises at the end of the admissions process or school year!

Staying in the loop with your guidance counselor is the best way to make sure you’re on track in all aspects of your academic career.

• Start thinking about financial aid.

Now that you know which colleges you’re applying to, you can obtain financial aid applications from those schools. Remember, when it comes to financial aid, it’s important to apply as early as possible!

This information can help you to begin applying for financial aid and, ultimately, planning your college budget, taking into account other expenses such as room and board, tuition, books and any other expenses you’re already aware of.

Additionally, you should start gathering information that’s required on that FAFSA form, which will become available on January 1st. You can learn what you need to fill out the FAFSA on Fastweb, on the FAFSA website or you can talk to your counselor.

• Attend financial aid workshops with your parents.

Financial aid is a topic that is confusing for many, if not most, families. Attending a financial aid workshop is a great idea for both you and your parents to gain a better understanding of how to process works and can actually help you maximize your financial aid eligibility, saving you a ton of money.
• Make sure you continue to stay on track with your grades and your extracurricular activities.

Colleges will continue to look at what you’ve done in your senior year after you’ve submitted your application, so make sure you stay focused on doing well. Maintain your GPA in your courses and stay committed to any extracurricular activities you’ve been involved with so that your admission is never in jeopardy!
• Always continue your scholarship search.

Keep in mind that the time after you’ve sent your college applications is one of the best times to focus on your scholarship applications.

Apply for scholarships from local organizations, your scholarship matches on Fastweb, by asking potential colleges which scholarships they would recommend at their school or asking your guidance counselor about any scholarships you may qualify for.

Apply for scholarships as deadlines approach and continually search for more scholarship and grant opportunities.

Never give up as this should be a continual process throughout your academic career!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

A Women’s College with a Global Reach

In an increasingly global world, programs that equip students to go into an international economy are more and more valuable. Wesleyan College’s world-renowned global reach, diverse student body, and commitment to educating the next generation of female world leaders, has led to their establishment of one such program: the Wesleyan College Global Scholars Program (WCGSP) for domestic students. The program is aimed at qualified high school graduates from all across America who are eager to participate in a scholarship program that prepares them to meet the challenges of an interconnected world and global economy. Through WCGSP, students develop leadership and problem-solving skills and build intercultural and linguistic competence.

Students who find themselves driven by a desire to expand their knowledge of international communities and businesses should seek programs that afford them not just knowledge, but experience in those fields and places. Awarded full tuition, Wesleyan Global Scholars will learn through an international immersion experience that serves as a microcosm of the world. While on Wesleyan’s campus, they will live and learn with students from places like Nepal, Australia, China, Rwanda, Korea, and Sweden. They will study with visiting international scholars, artists, and experts. They will have a Global Scholars advisor who assists in planning their individualized course of study, plus they will have an opportunity to attend Global Scholar seminars designed to help synthesize their other courses. After successful completion of their sophomore year, Wesleyan Global Scholars will receive up to $3,500 for an international study experience. This might look like an internship with the Women’s Federation in Guangzhou, China, or a semester studying in Salamanca, Spain, Seoul, South Korea, or Belfast, Northern Ireland, the choice is theirs.

In return, Global Scholars will share their research with the Wesleyan community, serve as international ambassadors for the College, and help ease the cultural transition for Wesleyan’s international exchange students. They will also work with AXIS, Wesleyan’s international student organization, to develop programming to promote intercultural learning. In these roles, students develop their roles as leaders within their communities and beyond.

To qualify as a Global Scholar, a student must be a U.S. citizen, academically strong, demonstrate a passion for connecting her education to the world, and have the capacity to be an effective ambassador for Wesleyan College. Students meeting the selection criteria will be invited to compete at Wesleyan’s Scholarship Day in February where faculty will select the scholarship recipients.

Students interested in globalizing their education are encouraged to participate in extracurricular experiences that enhance understanding of the international system. Wesleyan has been extremely successful in producing students that thrive in the competitive arena of international relations. The College has a Model United Nations chapter and teams of Wesleyan students regularly participate in the annual Southern Regional Model UN and the Harvard Model United Nations Conference. In 2008, the Wesleyan College Model United Nations (WCMUN) team represented the nations of Namibia and Sierra Leone at the prestigious Harvard National Model United Nations conference held in Boston, Massachusetts. In November 2013, the Wesleyan delegation representing Yemen was awarded an honorable mention at the competition. Out of more than seventy country delegations from some fifty colleges and universities, only ten other delegations received an award.

A globalized program, like the one Wesleyan is offering, provides an educational experience that produces students ready to be effective in a world that is becoming dependent on international communication and relationships. The ability to use a college education as a platform for becoming a culturally aware businesswoman, agent of change, or leader in many other fields, is invaluable. The experience and exposure that globally focused programs afford their students puts them a step ahead of their peers as they move into their futures.

Today’s post is by Wesleyan College. To learn more about Wesleyan and connect with their admissions office, visit them on Zinch.

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What I Learned From Taking SAT Subject Tests


When your standardized test scores feel like the be-all, end-all of your college applications, it’s no wonder it feels like everyone around you is stacking AP/IB exams and SAT Subject tests on top of their SAT I. So should you follow in suit?

I took three SAT Subject Tests during my high school career, according to either what I thought I was going to major in at the time, or to what I was good at or needed to boost – you can, after all, take them across a wide range of subjects not unlike the AP course selection. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure whether they were an active deciding factor for my college application process, but I think they were helpful enough to be worth the experience.

Yeah, yeah, waking up early after you thought you were done after the SAT I wasn’t fun (and I can definitely relate), but clearly many high school students are finding it well worth their time. This is what I discovered from taking these tests:

Find and Display Your Strengths and Interests

The actual subjects of SAT Subject Tests range widely, from Biology to Literature to U.S. or World History to a variety of languages. If you feel you’re a beast at stoichiometry or redox equations, consider taking the Chemistry Subject Test, while your friend who effortlessly memorizes dates from the Civil War should sign up for the U.S. History exam. This way you can show your skill and knowledge in one particular subject, rather than just tackling a broad range of problem types with the SAT I.

I personally took the Biology and Chemistry SAT Subject Tests because I expected to major in some science field – perhaps become a pharmacist or, dreaming big, a pediatrician. Studying for these was not easy no matter how hard I tried to keep up a positive attitude; it felt like the minute details of cellular respiration and every other biological process were going in one ear and straight out the other! Only now have I realized that science may not be my calling after all. Still, I may not have applied as a Biochemistry major, but my exams showed admissions officers that I was genuinely interested in these subjects on top of what the rest of my business and literature-focused application said.

Fill in Past Holes

One of my friends who’s a current high school senior decided to take the Literature Subject Test in an effort to boost a not-so-stellar Critical Reading score on her SAT I. This is just as good a strategy as any if you need to play your SAT Subject Test card on the table, and I used it myself when I took the Math Level 2 Exam to balance out my lower math grades on my transcript (oh, calculus, the bane of my existence).

If you feel you have weaknesses in any area – and believe me, most people do and that’s okay – then putting in the time to study and prepare for the SAT Subject Test of your particular weak spot will show colleges you’re taking the initiative to patch up these holes. Especially if you’re going to take the AP or IB exam for these subjects, why not knock out two targets at once? (A pro-tip for you sophomores and juniors: this strategy works for your PSAT and SAT studying as well! You have to study for the SAT anyway, so you might as well start during PSAT season.)

Build a Stronger Academic Profile Overall

SAT Subject Tests are no walk in the park. Although they’re only an hour long each (quick and painless), that often means you have only 60 minutes to answer 80-85 questions, leaving less than a minute per question. Make sure to time your practice tests so you won’t run out of time during the real test.

These tests may also cover coursework that your regular high school-level class doesn’t – for instance, the SAT Biology Subject Test contained some material that was only taught in my school’s AP Biology course, so attempting the exam after merely taking freshman Biology probably wasn’t my best and brightest idea. This demands extra studying, whether it’s in a supplementary class or by yourself with some test prep books, but your efforts will pay off when colleges note down your impressive scores.

Some schools may even require you to have one or two SAT Subject Test scores, such as Carnegie Mellon University. Most will recommend having them (Georgetown University, for example, recommends having three) or say they’ll consider them if scores are sent in; others will require them only for prospective students applying to their Honors Program. Some schools do not even consider SAT Subject Tests at all (such as the University of Denver), so double-check the schools on your college list for their policies about SAT Subject Tests before you pay CollegeBoard’s registration fee.

As Boston College says, consider taking an SAT Subject Test to “highlight a talent in a specific area.” (Click “Standardized Test Scores” to see for yourself!) Some scores can even be used for placement in higher-level classes, so you won’t need to be learning introductory material you already know. Whether you’re boosting your strengths or fixing your weaknesses, SAT Subject Tests are the way to go.

Have you taken any SAT Subject tests, or are you considering taking any in the near future? Why did you choose to take (or not to take) them? Tell us in a comment below.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

How to apply Easy To Get College Scholarships

If you are interesting in earning a scholarship you have to start by doing your research.
Most high schools receive a variety of local and national scholarship applications during the year but if you don’t have access to these, there are ways for you to explore some scholarship opportunities on your own.
Many local clubs and organizations in your community also provide scholarships but you'll need to call or make a visit to find out because you won’t find these online.

Here’s some helpful hints to get you started:

  1. Apply early and liberally.Many scholarships have early application deadlines and you don’t want to miss out. Apply to everything that you qualify for and you’ll increase your chances of success.
  2. Make sure you qualify.
    Be sure to read all of the requirements for applying because your time is too precious to waste on dead-end applications.
  3. Take the time to write a (really) good essay.
    Your essay is your first impression. Set aside a good amount of time to write a clear, concise essay that addresses all of the questions in detail and makes it hard to say no to you. Most importantly, PROOFREAD! If you can, have someone look over your work.
  4. Be honest. Take out the guesswork.
    Everybody loves an underdog. If your grades haven’t always been stellar or you notice that you’re lacking in community service or student honors, be honest about it. Sometimes addressing the problem up front is the best remedy for getting rid of it in the future.
  5. Deliver.
    Double check your application to make sure all of your materials are presentable and accounted for. Make copies for yourself. Send it out! You may want to consider using certified mail so that you know when your scholarship has been received.
Ready to start looking? Use the links above to start your search. Good luck!

Which College Scholarships Are Easy to Get? We Have the Data

Wacky, interesting, unusual and strange — those words can describe some “easy” college scholarships that are available today. But, while those scholarships might be described as the easiest scholarships to enter, the time and work you might need to apply to find scholarships adds up — as do the odds against your winning any given “easy” scholarship.
Few studies have been conducted on your odds of winning a scholarship. The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), which is conducted every 3-4 years, showed that students at four-year colleges represent 71.5 percent of scholarship recipients in 2003-04 and 77.0 percent of scholarship recipients in 2007-08.
If you further restrict the data to just the students who were enrolled full-time at 4-year institutions, 12.1 percent of students, or about 1 in 8, received scholarships worth $2,223 on average in 2003-04 and 10.6 percent of students, or about 1 in 10, received scholarships worth $2,815 on average in 2007-08. Full-time students at four-year schools represented 63.2 percent of scholarship recipients in 2003-04 and 69.4 percent of scholarship recipients in 2007-08 (breakdownof this information is found at FinAid).
The information shown above means that more students are applying for scholarships, increasing the odds against any one student attaining a scholarship.
But, another study, which shows that the odds for an athletic scholarship do not depend upon participation numbers, applies more to this article…as this article shows that winning a certain scholarship depends more upon the applicant’s ability and skill levels, rather than the number of individuals in the competition.


Scholarships provide one of the best ways to pay for your college education, as they do not need to be repaid. Easy scholarships are those that are easy to apply for, easy to understand and take little time for application. But, you must know yourself and you often need information at your fingertips for applications. You can pull together the following information and keep it in a file for easy access:
  • Transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or PROFILE
  • Parent’s financial information, including tax returns
  • One or more letters of recommendation
  • Proof of eligibility (e.g. membership credentials)
  • Medical records for student and parents
  • Military records for student and parents
  • Job and career proof for student and parents
Next, make a file for each scholarship and contest that you enter, noting the entry deadline and end of contest dates. You can do this easily online at
When you apply for a scholarship or contest for college funds, be sure to read instructions carefully and follow those instructions to the letter. Make copies of everything you do and don’t leave any items blank. Proofread your entry before you hit the “send” button or before you seal it up to send it off in the regular mail. Finally, get all your applications in early and often (some scholarship funds are offered monthly, and you must reapply each month to be in the running). Make a calendar to note these dates so you don’t forget to enter again.
Your preparation and organization can increase the odds that you might win, especially when competing against people who are not organized.
But, the odds of winning scholarship funds when you enter depends upon the number of people who enter a contest in competition with you. If, for instance, you decide to enter an essay contestwhere hundreds of students enter and no one in your area has ever made the top ten spot since 1947, then the odds may be against you. But, if you never enter the essay contest at all, the odds are 100 percent against you.

Determine Your Categories and Your Odds

Scholarships basically are divided into four categories: contests and sweepstakes, money provided to special groups, money provided for talents and skills and money based upon activities. These categories are covered below, along with the odds of success for each category. The links included in each category lead either to lists of scholarships or specific scholarships that provide an example of what you can find through Web searches.
Contests, Lotteries and Sweepstakes
Contests are easy, some contests are fun to enter, and most are geared to students with less than stellar grade point averages. Some contests might require essays, but the topics usually are preselected. Some contests require an entry form, nothing more.
But, contests and sweepstakes that depend solely upon registration and nothing else are just like lotteries — and the odds are about the same. Single state lotteries usually have odds of about 18 million to 1 while multiple state lotteries have odds as high as 120 million to 1. But, like any other contest, you cannot win if you do not enter, and — unlike the lottery — the only cost to you for these scholarships is your time.
Therefore, use your time wisely by using scholarship search sites that list contests and update them regularly. Some of these sites include:
  • Scholarship Hunter: This page contains updated information on contests designed specifically for college students. One contest, for instance, offers $1,000 in a monthly giveaway and up to one year of free tuition with a simple registration.
  • Scholarship Lotteries: The odds of winning a free scholarship from these lotteries usually is less than 1 in 10,000 (if well-publicized). Note that FinAid, the author of this information, also states that the odds of winning a scholarship are closer to 1 in 15 if based upon academic, artistic or athletic talents.
Your Characteristics
Are of you Native American or European ancestry? What is your religious preference? Are you legally blind, or over six feet tall or female? All these characteristics provide opportunities to find scholarship money, and the odds against thousands of entries is high. Here are some resources to learn more about these scholarships:
  • FinAid Student Profile-Based Aid: This list includes scholarships for international, Canadian, female, older, Jewish and gay students as well as students with disabilities.
  • Native American Scholarships: This list offers many scholarships offered to Native Americans. If you are Native American, most often your tribal leaders may have more information available for you.
  • Religious Scholarships: These scholarships are very specific and cover a variety of sects andreligions. Be sure to check with your local church or regional or nationwide office for further information.
  • Scholarships by Ethnic Background: Fastweb offers ethnic-based scholarships that range from African to Vietnamese.
Use your search engine to find more scholarships in all categories listed here. Just use keywords that describe you (one at a time) + scholarship to find results. For example, the keyphrase search, “deaf scholarship” provides links to sites such as Scholarships for the Deaf.
Your Talents, Knowledge and Skills
Are you a skilled writer? Are you an award-winning actor, athlete or artist? Do you have a stellar grade point average? These skills, your efforts, knowledge and talents can land you a scholarship with odds in your favor. Once again, a Web search can yield many more results than shown here.
  • Fastweb: Although you might find a few scholarships geared toward characteristics and activities here, most scholarships are geared toward your talents and knowledge (essays, etc.) and skills (art, etc.) This site also lists contests, but — for the most part — they are skill-based contests. Note that, on the page linked here, Fastweb makes the claim that one in eight applicants win scholarships through their site. See the link immediately below for confirmation of this information.
  • FinAid Scholarship Searches: Use this page at FinAid to learn more about other scholarship search engines that focus on skills, talents and knowledge. But, you might want to check the FinAid scholarship database quality information to learn more about the best scholarship search engines. Use the top-rated engines first and often.
  • Talent Scholarships: This link provides an example of what some colleges may offer to incoming or current students. This shows that your choice of college may influence your ability to earn a scholarship.
Your Activities
Have you been involved in student organizations, community outreach or politics? Do you or your parents belong to a specific club or organizations? You can find many scholarships based upon affirmative action, which targets funds to minorities and low-income families as well in this category.
  • Ambassadorial Scholarships: No membership is required in Rotary International, but you are required to attend at least one orientation if it is offered in your region. This site provides just one of hundreds of examples of scholarships offered by organizations for local or regional students.
  • FinAid Scholarships for Average Students: We’re not sure that “average” students might want to apply for these great scholarships, which focus on community activities, entrepreneurship and creativity.
  • National Black Police Association Scholarship [PDF]: This scholarship’s guidelines may not fit you, but that means that you inability to apply narrows the odds for those who do fit the guidelines. This is just one example of a number of associations that offer scholarships that are “easy” to obtain if you fit the specifications.


Although some scholarship opportunities may seem easy, the odds against you winning many “easy” scholarships may be against you. Therefore, work smart, consider the odds and find scholarships that fit your personality, goals, talents, abilities and your family and health history to lower those odds.
The following resources contain more tips to follow to put the odds of winning in your favor — making your search for a scholarship truly easy:
  • Eight Steps to Winning a Scholarship: Offered by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration.
  • Less Competitive Scholarships: FinAid provides tips on how to make scholarship competitions less competitive. With the odds averaging about one in eight for an average four-year college scholarship, FinAid suggests you find scholarships that are less competitive — because fewer students qualify for them. They show you where to find them.
  • Upping Your Odds of Winning: An excellent article provided by U.S. News & World Report. Pay special attention to the “Zig where you expect your competition will zag” option on writing essays. This is a hint on how to strengthen essay-writing skills.