Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What I’ve Learned in College…So Far

What I’ve Learned in College…So Far

I have been in college for nearly three years. Now, with just a single semester left to complete, I’ve been thinking about what I would have liked to have known years ago.

If you’re a high school junior or senior, you will hear piece after piece of advice in the coming months. Everyone will have some tidbit to chip in—don’t procrastinate, get plenty of sleep, and so on—and those are valuable and important to remember.

However, the reason everyone gives certain advice is because most people have done whatever it is that they are recommending you avoid doing: we all put off an assignment at some point and from time to time we all fall into bed hours after we intended to.

Next time you visit your future school, ask a student what they would have done differently their freshman year. You’ll get advice that’s specific to your college from someone whose experience is still recent.

For now, if you’re in the mood for some concrete ways to get the most out of your college experience, find testimonials from current students, like me!

You will likely find that there are many organizations and activities that you’re excited to join, and even if not, someone will likely recommend that you join x number of clubs. Basing your involvement around an arbitrary number isn’t a great strategy, though—at least not in the long run.

During your first year, go to plenty of meetings for plenty of different organizations and narrow down the ones you’re interested in. Later on, find which one or two you’re passionate about and be involved in them to the max.

You can still be a part of other organizations, but your college experience will be that much more rewarding if you’re truly participating in even one extracurricular group.

My last and probably most controversial and unpopular piece of advice is this: don’t join a fraternity or sorority. At the very least, wait until your sophomore year before rushing.

The financial commitment alone—we’re talking thousands of dollars over the course of your college career in pledge and initiation fees, chapter dues and extras like apparel and gifts for potential "bigs" and "littles" — is not something you want to be saddled with right off the bat.

Take some time and consider whether you actually need Greek life to be content and successful in college, or if you’re just fine the way you are. Find out who you are before marrying yourself to an organization. And if you decide to skip the rush and remain independent, rest assured knowing that you’re not missing out on anything.

At some point during your college career, and likely more than once, you will wonder if you made a mistake in choosing the school/major/organization that you did. That’s okay.

You know what’s also okay? Transferring, changing your major and dropping out of a club.

The great thing about college is that it is one of the few life experiences that you can essentially personalize as much as you want. And even if you’re worried about spending more time in school than you wanted to, you’re in good company: only 19% of students get their degree in four years!

When you’re in college, you’ll learn how to think critically and with an open mind—use those skills to think about your own college experiences as well. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, or even to forge your own road.

For those of you who are seasoned college veterans, what do you wish you had known as a freshman? And incoming freshmen, what questions are on your mind?

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Signing Up for Senior Year Classes

Signing Up for Senior Year Classes

When the time comes to sign up for your senior year classes, the popular approach is to take the easy way out, to take three study halls or a couple of gym classes.

However, your senior year is not something to take lightly.

As you prepare your schedule for next year, there are a few things to consider.

Think About College Requirements

Some schools may require you to take certain classes for admittance. If your school offers four years of a foreign language but you stopped at three, prospective schools will be worried.

Check the requirements of the schools you are planning on applying to in order to get an idea.

Take Some Harder Classes

When the admission staff takes a look at your application, they will be looking for strength of schedule, so push yourself.

Take as many AP or post-secondary classes as you can handle. These classes will prepare you for the rigor of college coursework and show schools that you can challenge yourself.

Making straight A’s will be extremely difficult with an AP class in your schedule, but that is no reason to worry. Taking harder classes is more important to colleges than getting straight A’s, so fill your schedule with tough classes as best as you can.

If you take a difficult course load, balancing it with a study hall is fine, but remember what it is for – studying. After all, those classes will be giving you plenty to do!

Stay Well-Rounded

Taking classes outside your comfort zone is expected in the college setting. If you are strong in English, take a biology class to demonstrate that you're willing to explore other interests and skills.

Sign up for an elective to balance things out, but if your schedule is full of tough classes and you do not have room, do not give those up.

Try to relax and not take everything too seriously when considering senior year, but remember your college goals.

Stay focused on what your transcript should look like come time to apply, and signing up for classes will be a breeze!

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Tips to Prepare for National Decision Day

Tips to Prepare for National Decision Day

National Decision Day is a huge milestone for high school seniors across the country.

May 1st marks the official day that those who have not made their final college decisions will commit to the college or university of their choice.

Whether you’ve made your decision or not, here are some tips to get you prepared for National Decision Day.

1. Have you answered all of your college questions?

There are many questions that students have when they are looking at a prospective college.

Can I see myself fitting in here? Does the campus life interest me? Will I live on or off-campus? What type of meal plans does the university have? What clubs will I be interested in joining? Have I looked into all scholarship opportunities?

All of these and more of your own personal questions are important in determining your final decision. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, create a check list and go back through your important questions.

Even if you have made up your mind, ensure that your college checks off on the majority of your important questions. These will help you visualize yourself at your selected school in the fall.

2. Do you have a back-up major?

It’s hard for an 18-year old high school senior to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life. In fact, research shows that up to 50% of college students change their major at least one time before graduating.

Whether you think you’re set in your major for the next four years or not, ensure that your school has a solid backup plan for your first major. It doesn’t have to be related in any way, but ensure that you at least have a second option in mind should things change in the fall or the coming years.

3. Think about the best fit

Again, this goes back to taking into account the questions that you have about each college. You need to ensure that you pick the school that caters to your strengths both as a student, and as a young adult.

Focus on the things that are going to make you successful in life down the road.

4. Don’t be a follower!

Whether you’ve made your decision yet or not, don’t be a follower! Whether it be the classic “my girlfriend/boyfriend is going to such-and-such college so I am too,” or a student following in the footsteps of their parents, be your own person!

Don’t let the decisions and thoughts of others affect one of the most important decisions of your life. At the end of the day, it’s your decision. Keep it that way!

5. Try to ignore cultural pressures in your final decision

Lots of students end up basing their final decisions off of things that were cool in high school: partying, sports, or even the stereotypes of the students at the school.

Don’t be one of those students. Although attending a school with a good football team would be fun, that can’t be the sole basis of your decision.

Remember, academics are the most important, and while the pop-culture side of things can have an impact, that cannot in any way be the basis of your final decision.

6. Do what feels right!

At the end of the day, whether you’ve committed yet or not, make your decision based on what feels right. It’s where you are going to spend the next four years of your life at least, and is a life altering choice!

Take all things into consideration, and be comfortable with your decision.

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10 Resources for Attending and Succeeding in College for Low-Income Students

10 Resources for Attending and Succeeding in College for Low-Income Students

On March 13, This American Life of NPR released a compelling report on the discrepancies of high school education between low-income and wealthy students and how it either fostered or alienated low-income students from success in higher education. The report followed three different students from a low-income high school in the Bronx – all of whom showed promise in college enrollment.

One student graduated from high school early and never attempted to attend college, another won a prestigious full-ride scholarship but failed out of school and the final student graduated from college and become a teacher.

Each of these students had the intellect to attend college and succeed; however, they didn’t have the resources. Making information of these resources more readily available is the first step to helping lower income students achieve in high school, college and life. With that, here are 10 resources for low-income students to help navigate college applications and financial aid, college readiness requirements and the college campus culture.

College Applications & Financial Aid: Guidance Counselors, Mentoring Programs, Free FAFSA Workshops and Scholarship Search Engines

While there may not be much help and guidance at home when it comes to applying to college and financial aid, there are resources outside of the home available to you. First, you should seek out your high school guidance counselors. They not only supply best practices for college applications, but they can also direct you to mentors or organizations that specialize in helping low-income students with their college applications.

Most of these services also extend to financial aid applications as well. Plus, every year, cities across the country host College Goal Sunday. These free workshops are perfect for students and families who have no idea how to fill out the form, decipher financial aid options or ultimately pay for school.

Finally, there are a plethora of scholarships for you. Teachers and counselors can usually direct students to local or national scholarships, but you can find options on your own too. Filling out a profile on Fastweb is a great way for you to find scholarship opportunities for which you actually qualify. Once you have filled out every section of the profile, you can view your scholarships, which you will then have to apply to individually.

College Readiness: Remedial Courses, Advisors and Financial Aid Administrators

As soon as low-income students step foot on campus, their insecurities about their academic and cultural preparedness are triggered. And that’s perfectly normal. While some of the wealthier students may give no indication, they are likely experiencing anxieties too. Regardless of how everything may seem, the arrival on a college campus the first time is scary for everyone.

If you’re placed in remedial courses for the first year, don’t despair. It says nothing of your intellect; rather, it’s about your preparedness. You deserve to be in college just like everyone else there, and your professors and advisors are working to ensure that you’re on the same page as your peers. Attend these courses, spend study time on the assignments and meet one-on-one with the professor or teacher’s aide to help you succeed in the actual courses and throughout your college career.

Meeting with your advisor for the first few times will be intimidating, but their purpose as an advisor is to help students. They would much rather help you than to see you fail out of college; don’t be afraid to approach them. If you are struggling with a course, dorm life or something as simple as directions to a building on campus, seek guidance from these resources. If they don’t have the answers to your questions, they will be able to direct you to someone who does. Remember, there is no question too simple or “stupid.”

When it comes time to paying for school, dealing with tuition and financial aid discrepancies or changes in your ability to pay, you can visit or call your school’s financial aid administrators. Though you may be intimidated to speak with the people that seem to control your finances, these people are on your side. Their sole job is to ensure that you can realistically afford your tuition bills; so if anything happens to your financial circumstances, speak to a financial aid administrator as soon as possible.

Campus Culture: Library, Career Center and Student Health Services

While a college classroom can be daunting, everything else about the campus can seem a culture shock for low-income students too. Your high school may not have had a library, gymnasium or cafeteria. On a college campus, you have all of these benefits and so much more; however, you may be too scared to ask for help.

Again, these resources are here for you – so use them! If you can’t afford textbooks or need help with a research paper, visit the campus library. This building doesn’t just house books; it’s home to knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to teach you the library basics – like how to find a book, use the computers or navigate the resource center.

Though you may have envisioned flipping burgers all of your life, the reality is that you’re a college student. It’s time to start dreaming bigger. Check out your campus career center, which is staffed with experts who can assist you in finding a career that will shape your academic pursuits. They’ll also help you format a resume and cover letter when the time comes, prepare for interviews and match you with internship opportunities if you feel that’s something you’d like to do during college.

Finally, whether you’re sick, injured or need to speak with someone about how overwhelmed you may feel, the student health services are at your disposal. All of these services are included in your student fees so you don’t need to pay extra for them. It may be especially beneficial for you to see one of the campus therapists about any discomfort you may feel about being in college. Though you may feel isolated in your feelings, there are plenty of other students from all different backgrounds going through something similar.

In 2014, the White House published a report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students that referenced a study, “Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America,” which stated that, “When children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50%.”

Though there are many significant barriers to getting in and succeeding in college; the time, stress and anxiety are worth it. As a low-income student, you don’t just deserve to go to college; you deserve to graduate too. Never be afraid to ask for help, and take advantage of the resources at your disposal to make sure that happens.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

12 Grad School Survival Tips

12 Grad School Survival Tips

Ah, graduate school. What a completely unique experience - or so they say. Because, the truth is, when you're a grad student, nobody really gets you, right?

Wrong! Fastweb does! Not only do we know what you're going through, but we want to help you get through it, too.

It's pretty scary in graduate school, too. It's basically, like, sink or swim without a fancy swim instructor looking out for you.

Just think of Fastweb as that life preserver waiting to save you when the going gets tough or when your arms give out. No, we can't do the work for you (sorry, we asked) but we can try to motivate you to keep sticking it out when times get tough.

No matter what year you are, utilize these tips to get through graduate school successfully - we know you can do it! Here are some tips that can help you survive graduate school, from start to finish.

1. Stick to a budget.

This tip is likely not all that difficult to follow if you’re a regular graduate student. But, when you do score some extra cash (for whatever reason) try your best to put it towards paying your bills, savings or paying off loans and interest.

Because, chances are, you’ll want to have a splurge session and, quite honestly, we don’t blame you. It really is in your best interest to pay off your debt!

2. Remember that you’re never alone.

Deciding to take on graduate school is a scary task but, remember, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who has decided to take on this lifestyle.

In fact, you may not be the only one questioning, “Why on earth did I decide to take on this lifestyle in the first place?” Heck, there could be support groups for students like you.

So, take solace in the fact that you, friend, are not alone!

3. Pay off interest when you can.

You’ll be in a much better spot with as little interest accumulated as possible. It’s difficult, but pay off as much interest as you’re able. Your future self will be eternally grateful.

4. Let yourself be a student.

Repeat: I am a grad student. I am learning. I will make mistakes. Seriously, don’t be so hard on yourself. What you’re doing is seriously admirable and really difficult. The world really isn’t going to come to an end if you make a mistake, we promise.

5. Utilize tax breaks.

As a graduate student, you qualify for unique tax breaks that you should utilize.

For example, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit can allow students thousands in tax breaks annually!

6. Make the most of your resources.

There are a lot of resources provided to students like you. You just need to: 1. Find out what they are. 2. Utilize them.

Refer to your professors, go to their office hours and ask the right questions. When in doubt, refer to number eight on this list!

7. Apply for free money!

By this, we mean grants and scholarships! There are so many financial resources available to graduate students on sites like, ahem, Fastweb, so apply, apply, apply!

Remember, applying is pretty much a numbers game and the more you apply, the better your chances of winning are. Apply for all you qualify for to maximize your odds of winning.

8. Never forget you have an advisor.

Your advisor is there to help with any questions you may have regarding programs, research, faculty issues, etc.

Don’t forget about this important person you should have on speed dial! If your advisor doesn’t have an answer for you, he or she will be able to point you in the right direction of the contact who will.

It’s even advisable to set up a regular meeting with your advisor to check in and see how things are progressing for you. So many students neglect to do this.

Think about it this way, you’re paying for their services indirectly, so why not utilize them?

9. Select work you’re passionate about.

You can’t devote hours on end to learning and working on something you can’t stand. It’s as simple as that. You’ll grow tired of it and simply won’t put forth the endless effort that it takes to get through days and nights of studying and working towards a goal.

Bottom line: pick something you absolutely live and breathe so that you can live with your decision.

10. Take time to experience life, even if it’s just for a moment.

Through your courses and your difficult curriculum, try to take time to experience life as well. You’ll see glimpses of life through meeting others, getting to know professors, chatting with baristas or petting someone’s puppy on the street.

These may seem like pretty lame experiences and, quite frankly, they are but they’re little slices of life to help you get through even the darkest of days.

11. Always remember the light at the end of the tunnel.

Never forget that through all of your pain and hard work – there is an end to a means. Grad school doesn’t last forever and, with every moment, you’re getting closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel!

12. Relax when you’re able.

Yes, we know – easier said than done. At the rare moments when you have a free moment, try your hardest to relax.

Take a deep breath, take a bath and do whatever you need to do to just, you heard us, relax!

Source feed Post from fastweb


3 Resources for Your Scholarship Search

3 Resources for Your Scholarship Search

When seeking scholarships, three main resources come to mind: your school, your town, and the Internet.

Regardless of your experience and faculty with these options, your junior or senior year of high school are good times to start for all three.

Next, I’ll break down each option for every student.

Your School

High schools know that their students are anxious about college, especially affording an education.

Students whose parents aren’t the Obamas or the Carnegies need to know that their school has opportunities for financial help.

Your first stop should be the guidance or counseling department. As a hub of all things college-related, these offices usually have lists of scholarships available for students.

Start with the counseling website. If nothing is listed, speak to your guidance counselor or a school administrator. Start early, as some scholarships require recommendations, essays and have deadline requirements.

Also, many schools offer scholarships especially to seniors, usually from specific memorial funds. These scholarships tend to be specific, so do your research to see if you qualify.

For example, my school offers a scholarship for future English teachers and another for church members. Ask your teachers, as your teachers are often the people asked to recommend students for these awards.

Your Town

Most towns, even small ones, have local scholarships. These tend to be run by local clubs, so make sure to inquire at any clubs or groups that you or your parents may belong to, such as a local Woman’s Club.

Scholarships may also be available beyond your town, especially if you live in an area composed of many small towns. Look for county or district scholarships.

Sometimes these opportunities are posted around local establishments, such as coffee shops, libraries, religious and municipal buildings.

Reach out to past graduates who attended school in your area. They may know of scholarships that they took advantage of, or that friends utilized.

The Internet

If you’re reading this, you’re already on your way. Fastweb is one of many websites designed to connect students with scholarships.

With online scholarships, you might feel stressed or anxious about competing with so many other scholarship-searchers. I’ve certainly submitted scholarships that I haven’t won, often because they were national scholarships full of bright applicants.

Applying for national scholarships is a smart idea because they often offer the most money. You won’t often find $10,000 scholarships from local organizations.

However, keep in mind that smaller scholarships have their benefits. Though the award amounts may be smaller, the competition pool is smaller and you have a greater chance of winning. And, if you win several smaller awards, that money can really add up!

That’s why it’s recommended you should apply for more specific scholarships. There are scholarships for almost every person. Search “weird scholarships” and you’ll be amazed, but start with the basics.

Your age, gender, race, experiences, hobbies, aspirations, and eccentricities set you apart. Apply for scholarships for women specifically, or for African-Americans.

Scholarships exist for future farmers and artists, or any other profession you might pursue. Design a sign or make your prom outfit out of Duct tape to win college money. There are scholarships for bowlers and even for vegetarians.

Extra Tips

If you’re willing to do your research, set aside some time, and put in the work, you can generate money for college.

Start with your school, and apply for everything possible. If you’re late for scholarships, it’s okay, you’ll find another. Just don’t make it a habit or you may miss out on some great opportunities!

Not every scholarship requires an essay. Some are fashion contests, some just sending in your Common Application and transcript, and some are so strange they might even end up being fun.

Don’t agonize over missed deadlines or scholarships you didn’t win. Take a deep breath and do what you can.

Source feed Post from fastweb


Saturday, March 21, 2015

President Obama Signs Student Aid Bill of Rights

President Obama Signs Student Aid Bill of Rights

The difficulties of student loan repayment have been an integral part of the dialogue surrounding paying for school in recent years. College graduates began slipping under payments long before the recession, but the tough economic times only exacerbated the struggle, making it more of a common occurrence than an anomaly. Fortunately, the economy is healthier; however, the state of student loan debt remains much the same.

On March 10, President Obama announced to a crowd of students at Georgia Tech University that he was going to fight for more transparency in student loan repayment and management. His announcement was the basis for the Student Aid Bill of Rights, which he signed into memorandum for the Department of Education and other federal agencies, according to the White House.

The Student Aid Bill of Rights is as follows:

I. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.

II. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.

III. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.

IV. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

The federal government will implement these principles through several practices across different agencies and programs. First, the Secretary of Education will create a web site by July 1, 2016, for borrowers to file complaints about federal loan lenders, servicers, collection agencies and institutions of higher education, guaranteeing that students and graduates will have the ear of the federal government for all issues concerning student loan debt, as stated by the White House.

The Student Aid Bill of Rights also calls for greater leniency, debt repayment strategies and help for those borrowers struggling to make payments. Various agencies in the government will begin monitoring student loan debt and repayment in order to provide feedback, trends and best practices for borrowers as they continue to pay down their debt. Finally, using the data from these new policies, the White House and other departments will provide legislative recommendations to help accommodate borrowers in situations like bankruptcy.

While the Student Aid Bill of Rights is meant to help college graduates manage their student loan debt, there are plenty of critics to this move by the President. An opinion piece on Forbes states that the memorandum will do nothing to help with college costs; rather, it will just shift the problem of rising college costs to other entities.

Regardless, the Student Aid Bill of Rights has been put into motion, and only time will yield the impact.

What are your thoughts on the Student Aid Bill of Rights? Will it make a difference in the lives of student borrowers?


Source feed Post from fastweb


Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to Become a Morning Person

How to Become a Morning Person

It’s safe to say that most students aren't morning people. Actually, most people aren't morning people. Don’t worry - you can change!

Adapting into a morning people will not only benefit you in your academic life, but in your personal life as well. You will find that you won’t feel as rushed, you’ll feel more prepared and on top of your game, ready to take on whatever comes your way.

Don’t believe it? Take on the challenge for a month and try to become a morning person. If you don’t feel a difference in your routine, then you can return to your old ways and you’ve disproven the theory.

Set a Bedtime –

You probably thought that having a bedtime was long gone, along with choosing whether or not you get to have a cookie before dinner.

However, getting your body used to a schedule can help you form normal sleep habits, making it much easier to wake up earlier.

Eventually, you may not even need to set an alarm clock because your body will function like it’s own alarm clock!

Don’t Keep Your Alarm Clock Next to Your Bed –

This one is obvious – you can’t hit snooze while in bed if your alarm clock is too far away to do so.

This will force you to stand up, get out of bed and make the decision to press snooze (which you won’t after reading the next tip).

Set Music as Your Alarm Tone –

Have you ever heard of waking up on the wrong side of the bed? How on earth can anyone expect to wake up in a great mood to an annoying beep or ringing tone? Surely, that’s where the expression originated. That’s enough to drive a person insane!

Set your alarm to a music station or playlist so you wake up slowly and calmly and, most importantly, in a mood that’s ready to conquer the day.

Get Up the First Time You Wake Up –

Instead of pressing snooze on your alarm clock or, even if you happen to wake up beforehand, get out of bed! Yes – it’s going to be hard when you begin the habit. But, once it becomes a habit, it will be much easier (which is why they call it a habit).

If you press snooze or roll over and lay there half-asleep, you’ll likely sleep in and, let’s be honest, it’s not quality sleep anyway.

Open Your Curtains and/or Blinds –

Fall asleep with your curtains or blinds open so that you can let the sunshine in! The natural daylight helps your brain recognize it’s time to wake up in the morning.

Sometimes, if enough daylight comes in, you won’t even need an alarm clock.

If your room gets too sunny too early in the morning (say, the crack of dawn) or is too bright at night, open your shades right when you wake up in the morning, to signal to your mind and body that it’s time to wake up.

Create a Morning Ritual –

Wake up earlier than necessary so you’re not rushing out the door and – wait for it - just relax.

Watch the morning news, make coffee, read the paper, check social media or do whatever it is you do to relax. Go for a jog, stretch, take a shower and get dressed and then head to class.

You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel that you didn’t have to rush to get there. You’ll feel prepared and ready to tackle the day.


Source feed Post from fastweb


50 Things Only Grad Students Will Understand

50 Things Only Grad Students Will Understand

Life as a graduate student isn't always easy, but it’s worthwhile (even if it doesn't always feel that way).

After researching what seemed like a million and one graduate student blogs, the following list was compiled with the common themes present in the daily lives of graduate students.

Read the below to get a laugh, relate and realize that others know what you’re going through.

1. Your meetings with professors are scheduled at the most inconvenient times imaginable. So what if my wife is in labor?

2. Lonely office hours – do students even utilize these anymore?

3.Your life can be summed up in one word: research.

4. The impossible balance between research, school and studying.

5. Trying to remember what you ate today…or was that yesterday?

6. The boredom between courses and qualifying exams…even though you should be studying.

7. As soon as you get a moment to relax, somebody says “thesis” and it’s over.

8. Neglecting to speak out loud for an entire day because your reading took over.

9. Your social life consists of people debating serious issues and philosophical concepts.

10. You consider caffeine to be your favorite food group. The only down side is the twitching and involuntary body movements you now experience regularly.

11. All of your household surfaces are mere extensions of your desk.

12. Carefully grading undergraduate work that never gets picked up by the student.

13. Working wherever, whenever. Your books and laptop are basically tethered to your body.

14. Weekends are no longer filled with fun and excitement. They now contain dread mixed with piles of text.

15. The panic that sets in when you scheduled a task that doesn't involve school.

16. Looking forward to the week because you only have one 20-page paper to write.

17. Realizing you must choose between sleep, school and a social life. School wins.

18. Being so exhausted that you don’t even have the energy to try to sleep.

19.You actually get excited when you get books for a new semester.

20. Your excitement is short-lived because you realize they don’t fit on your IKEA bookshelf.

21. You start questioning if your life is “normal,” due to eleven-plus hour workdays with no breaks.

22. It's increasingly difficult to continue a discussion after a person makes a comment you disagree with.

23. You avoid your dissertation advisor like a debt collector since you still haven’t finished the task at hand.

24. Your bucket list consists of making friends outside of grad school, in hopes to maintain some degree of normalcy.

25. Answering the same student questions via email repeatedly.

26. Simple pleasures in life, like purchasing a plant or dry-clean only shirt, become “too much of a commitment.”

27. Feeling as if you’re having a nervous breakdown, then wondering if you’re technically too young to have a nervous breakdown. Better Google it, just in case.

28. Spelling the simplest words suddenly becomes difficult.

It's m-u-s-e-a-u-m, right?

29. You’re actually grateful when an illness coincides with your schedule.

Thank goodness it was the weekend and I didn't have to miss class!

30. You either have a million things to do or nothing to do – never a healthy medium.

31. You've got a grad school speech ready for when you meet new people: your field, what you study and what you plan to do with your degree.

32. You actually begin to miss having homework during holiday breaks.

33. You feel like a fake and wonder when the other members of academia will catch on and kick you out of the program.

34. Constantly checking your email and, when nothing arrives, demanding someone nearby double check the Internet is working. It is.

35. Your basic human priorities that were once eat, drink and sleep are now replaced with papers, books and due dates.

36. Your thoughts are no longer simplistic – you only have two response modes for conversation: verbal thesis or completely tongue-tied.

37. You give yourself pep talks in your head and one day you catch yourself doing it out loud, in public.

38. You're constantly trying to come up with clever comebacks to annoying questions regarding grad school.

Isn’t it expensive? What kind of job can you even get with that degree?

39. Speaking to people outside of grad school becomes difficult because you now use words that are not applicable to daily life, like “hegemony” or “praxis.”

40. Over-thinking has become a hobby of yours.

41. Anxiety ensues when you’re on break because you keep feeling like you’ve forgotten to do something, even though you haven’t.

42. Rewarding yourself with mundane tasks once you’ve completed a paper, like putting your laundry in the dryer. How exciting!

43. Planning your day around one simple task or errand that you never actually accomplish.

I guess I can do that tomorrow...

44. You now find weird or unfunny things hilarious, like making up ridiculous hypothetical situations involving other students or your professors.

45. Trying to figure out if you aren't eating regularly because you’re broke or because you’re too busy. You settle on the fact that it’s a combination of the two.

46. You feel fantastically brilliant one moment, which is short-lived because you feel dumb-as-a-rock the next.

47. The professor you want to learn most from seems to dislike you and only you.

48. You realize you have so many books overdue at the library that the fees require a payment plan.

Then you remember the ridiculous amount of debt you’ve acquired to attend graduate school and have a mini panic attack about both situations.

49. Trying to figure out what a dissertation actually is while you’re trying to work on one.

You then console yourself with the fact that nobody else seems to know, either.

50. Realizing your work is valuable and the process was worthwhile, even after you’ve been repeatedly critiqued, rejected and denied by countless scholars, publications and departments you respect.


What other grad school realities have you experienced?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships

Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships

Prestigious scholarships are among the most well-known and most generous scholarships, but are also the most competitive. They are national or international in scope.

Winning one of these awards marks you with a stamp of excellence that can open doors.

Some of these awards require nomination by the student's school and do not accept applications directly from students.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program

The Young Scholars Program, a selective 5-year pre-college scholarship for high-performing middle school students with financial need, is the largest scholarship of its kind in the nation. It provides individualized academic advising, financial support, and a pathway to the foundation’s $40,000 per year College Scholarship. The application period is open from January to April. Up to 65 Young Scholars are selected for this program each year. Final notification is in the early fall.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program

The College Scholarship Program is the largest undergraduate scholarship program available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities. College Scholars receive up to $40,000 per year, college planning support, ongoing advising, the opportunity to network with the larger Cooke Scholar community, and a pathway to the foundation’s $50,000 per year Graduate Scholarship. The application period is open from September to November. Up to 40 College Scholars are selected for this program each year.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest scholarship in the country for top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. Undergraduate Transfer Scholars receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years, ongoing advising, the opportunity to network with the larger Cooke Scholar community, and a pathway to the foundation’s $50,000 per year Graduate Scholarship. The application period is open from October to December. Up to 85 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars are selected each year.

Buick Achievers Scholarship Program

The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, funded by the GM Foundation, is designed to help students who are leaders in both the classroom and their communities, but who may not have the financial means to attend college. The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program is open to high school seniors or college undergraduate students who plan to major in a specified course of study that focuses on Engineering/Technology or select Design and Business-related programs at an accredited four-year US college or university. Scholarships will be awarded based on participation and leadership in community and school activities, interest in the automotive industry, academic achievement and financial need. Special consideration will be given to those who are a first-generation college student, female, minority, military veteran or a dependent of military personnel.

Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program

The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship program is funded by the federal government and administered by the state governments in each state. This merit scholarship program is open to high school seniors. Students apply through the State education agency in their state of legal residence. Each state has its own deadlines.

Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarships are open to US high school seniors who have a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Recipients are selected based on leadership, character, civic and extracurricular activities, academic excellence, and community service. This is an extremely competitive program, with more than 100,000 applications received each year.

Collegiate Inventors Competition

The Collegiate Inventors Competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue new ideas, processes and technological innovations. The invention must have been reduced to practice and patentable. It may not have been made available to the public as a commercial product or process or been patented or published more than one year prior to the date of submission to the competition. Submissions are judged on originality and inventiveness, as well as on their potential value to society (socially, environmentally, and economically), and on the range or scope of use.

Davidson Fellows

Davidson Fellowships are awarded by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development to US students under age 18 who have completed a significant piece of work in the fields of Mathematics, Science, Technology, Music, Literature, Philosophy or Outside the Box. The significant piece of work should have the potential to benefit society. The focus of the program is on gifted and talented students.

Elks National Most Valuable Student Competition

The Elks National Foundation "Most Valuable Student" Competition awards 500 four-year scholarships to high school seniors. US citizenship is required. (Resident alien status does not qualify.)

Gates Millennium Scholars

The Gates Millennium Scholarship program is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the United Negro College Fund. Nomination by a professional educator (principal, teacher, guidance counselor, etc.) is required. The focus of this program is on students who will be pursuing careers in mathematics, science, engineering, education or library science. Candidates must be African America, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American, a US citizen or permanent resident/national, have a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale, and be entering a US accredited college or university as a full-time degree-seeking freshman in the fall.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, the Gilman Scholarship aims to diversify and expand participation in international study by supporting undergraduate students who have been traditionally underrepresented in study abroad, including students with high financial need, community college students, students in underrepresented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, students with disabilities, and students of nontraditional age. The program also encourages students to choose nontraditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe and Australia.

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship program was established in 1986 by the United States Congress to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater. Up to 300 Goldwater Scholarships are awarded each year. The scholarships cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. (The scholarship is renewable for students who receive it during their junior year of college.) Each four-year institution may nominate up to four students who are currently sophomores or juniors for the award. Second-year students who are currently enrolled in a two-year college but intend to transfer to a four-year college or university are also eligible. The students must intend to pursue careers in math, science or engineering.

Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship (NOAA)

The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship was established in 2005 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to honor retired Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina who promoted ocean research and the study of our atmosphere throughout his career. The program supports a variety of majors related to oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education, including earth, environmental and marine sciences, biology, agricultural science, life sciences, mathematics, computer science, physical science, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, and teacher education.

Intel Science Talent Search

The Intel Science Talent Search, formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, is one of the most prestigious scientific research competitions for high school seniors in the United States. Winners are selected on the basis of their potential as future scientists and researchers. Each year 300 students are named semifinalists and receive a $1,000 award. 40 of the semifinalists are named finalists and are invited on an all-expense-paid trip to the Science Talent Institute in Washington, DC in March, where the winners are selected.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world's largest science fair. Each year more than 1,200 students in grades 9-12 from more than 40 countries are selected at regional science fairs to compete at the ISEF for more than $3 million in scholarships and prizes.

NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program

The NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) is a competitive scholarship program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in pursuing biomedical, behavioral and social science careers at the NIH.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) sponsors the National Merit Scholarships and National Achievement Scholarships programs. These are among the largest scholarship competitions in the United States, with more than 10,000 students receiving college scholarships totalling $47 million. High school students enter the competitions by taking the PSAT test, also referred to as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).

Presidential Scholars Program

The Presidential Scholars Program provides recognition (but no scholarship funding) for up to 121 high school seniors each year on the basis of academic achievement. An additional 20 students each year are selected on the basis of scholarship in the visual arts, performing arts or creative writing. US citizenship is required.

Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship Program

The Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship Program is sponsored by the Phillips Foundation. It provides scholarships to college undergraduate students who demonstrate "leadership on behalf of the cause of freedom, American values and constitutional principles.”

Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships

The Rotary Foundation's Ambassadorial Scholarship program provides approximately 1,000 to 1,100 scholarships for study abroad each year. The scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students worldwide. (Applicants must be citizens of a country in which there is a Rotary club.) Candidates must have completed at least two years of college. Applications are made through the local Rotary club. Each Rotary club has its own deadlines.

Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology

The Siemens Westinghouse Competition is one of the most prestigious scientific research competitions for high school students in the United States. Students submit research reports individually or in teams of two or three. Some of the projects are selected for further competition in six regional events. One individual and one team are selected as Regional Winners and are invited to participate in the National Competition.

Morris K. Udall Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship

The Morris K. Udall Foundation awards 50 undergraduate scholarships of up to $5,000 to college juniors and seniors in fields related to the environment.

Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program

The Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program provides scholarships for full-time undergraduate and graduate minority students in the following fields: Chemistry, Information Management, Computing & Software Systems, Material Science, Printing Management Science, Laser Optics, Physics and Engineering (Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Imaging, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Optical or Software Engineering).

Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest

The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest is open to full-time juniors and seniors at accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

Graduate Scholarships

Beinecke Scholarship Program

The Beinecke Scholarship Program is open to college juniors who intend to pursue graduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at any accredited university.

British Chevening Scholarships

The British Chevening Scholarships enable non-UK students to study in the United Kingdom. They are offered in more than 118 countries. (US students are not eligible.) Approximately 600 new scholarships are awarded each year for postgraduate studies and research.

Winston Churchill Scholarship Foundation

The Churchill Scholarship Program enables young Americans to pursue graduate study in science, mathematics, and engineering at Churchill College, Cambridge University. A total of 14 one-year Churchill Scholarships are offered each year.

Davies-Jackson Scholarship

The Davies-Jackson Scholarship provides support for a two-year course of study at St. John's College, Cambridge University, leading to a British B.A. degree (the equivalent of a master's degree in the US). Fields of study include Archaeology and Anthropology, Classics, Economics, English, Geography, History, History of Art, Modern and Medieval Languages, Music, Philosophy, and Social and Political Sciences.

EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship Program for Graduate Environmental Study

The Environmental Protection Agency's STAR Fellowship Program provides graduate fellowships for master's and doctoral students pursuing degrees in fields of study related to the environment.

Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities

The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities program is administered by the National Research Council. Candidates must also be enrolled in or planning to enroll in a research-based PhD or ScD program in Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Astronomy, Chemistry, Communications, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Economics, Engineering, Ethnomusicology, Geography, History, International Relations, Life Sciences, Linguistics, Literature, Language, Mathematics, Performance Study, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, and Urban Planning.

Fulbright Fellowships

Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) and the Institute for International Education (IIE) administer the graduate Fulbright Fellowships for US citizens to study in other countries and for international students to study in the US. US students must apply through their campus Fulbright program advisor. International students should apply through the Fulbright Commission or US Information Service in their home country.

Gates Cambridge Scholarships

The Gates Cambridge Scholarships are open to graduate students from outside the United Kingdom for study at the University of Cambridge.

Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Applied Physical Sciences

The Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships are awarded to graduate students who are expected to have the greatest impact on the application of the physical sciences to human problems.

IBM PhD Fellowships

IBM PhD Fellowships are available to PhD students in business, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials science, mathematics, mechanical engineering and physics, as well as a variety of emerging technical fields.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Programs

The Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowships are awarded by the US Department of Education to support graduate students in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship

The Luce Scholarships provide stipends and internships for 18 young Americans to live and work in Asia each year. Candidates must be US citizens who have earned a bachelor's degree and are less than 30 years old.

James Madison Graduate Fellowships

The James Madison Junior Fellowships are open to college seniors and recent college graduates who intend to go to graduate school on a full-time basis. The fellowships provide funding for graduate study leading to a master's degree and are tenable at any accredited institution of higher education in the United States. Candidates must intend to become secondary school teachers of American history, American government and social studies.

Marshall Scholarships

The Marshall Sherfield Scholarships Program is a highly competitive program in which young Americans are chosen to pursue a graduate education in the United Kingdom each year. The awards are tenable at any British university and cover two years of study in any field, typically at the graduate level, leading to the award of a British university degree.

Mellon Foundation Fellowships

The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Humanistic Studies provide support for first-year doctoral students in the humanities. The fellowships are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are for graduate students who look at the ethical or religious values in all fields of the humanities and social sciences in the pursuit of their doctorate

Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women's Studies

The Women’s Studies Fellowships are provided to Ph.D. candidates at institutions in the United States who will complete their dissertations during the fellowship year. The most competitive applications include not only a clear, thorough, and compelling description of the candidate’s work, but also evidence of an enduring interest in and commitment to women’s issues and scholarship on women.

Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship

The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and is designed to attract outstanding individuals from all ethnic, racial and social backgrounds who have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State.

George Mitchell Scholarships

The George Mitchell Scholarships enable American students to pursue one year of postgraduate study at an Ireland university.

NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP)

The NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP) provides fellowships for graduate study leading to a masters or doctoral degree in science, mathematics and engineering. Approximately 90 to 100 new recipients are selected each year.

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships are sponsored by the US Department of Defense and support graduate students pursuing a doctoral degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Biosciences, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Cognitive, Neural, and Behavioral Sciences Computer and Computational Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Geosciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering, Oceanography and Physics.

National Physical Science Consortium

The National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC) sponsors a graduate fellowship program for graduate students pursuing a PhD in the physical sciences at one of more than 100 participating colleges and universities. Recipients are required to work for a NPSC-member employer during the summer preceding and following the first year of graduate school. Fields of study include Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Materials Science, Mathematical Sciences, Physics, and their subdisciplines, and related engineering fields, including Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Environmental, and Mechanical Engineering.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Foundation

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship awards approximately 900 to 1,000 new three-year fellowships each year to graduate students in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences. (The full list of eligible fields is: animal sciences, anthropology, archeology , astronomy, biochemistry, bioengineering, biophysics & structural biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil & environmental engineering, computer science, cultural anthropology, ecology, economics, electrical engineering, engineering fields, environmental life sciences, genetics & evolutionary biology, geography, geosciences, history of science, linguistics, materials engineering, mathematical sciences, mechanical engineering, microbiology & cell biology, molecular & developmental biology, neurosciences & physiology, physics, plant & other life sciences, political science, psychology, public policy, sociology.)

Boren Fellowships

Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an important international and language component to their graduate education through specialization in area study, language study, or increased language proficiency. Boren Fellowships support study and research in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded.

Rhodes Scholarship

The Rhodes Scholarships enable students from many countries to study at the University of Oxford. 32 American Rhodes Scholars are selected each year.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships

The Sloan Research Fellowships provide support and recognition to young scientists and research faculty in physics, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience, economics, computer science and computational and evolutionary molecular biology.

Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship

The Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies sponsor the International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship (IDRF) program for graduate students in humanities and social sciences conducting doctoral dissertation field research outside the United States.

Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

The Soros Fellowships provide for up to two years of graduate study in the US for "New Americans.” New Americans include resident aliens (i.e., holders of a Green Card), naturalized US citizens, and the children of two parents who are both naturalized US citizens. Fellows may pursue graduate degrees in any professional field, such as engineering, medicine, law, and social work, or any scholarly discipline in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowships for Research Related to Education

The Spencer Foundation's Dissertation Fellowships for Research Related to Education are open to doctoral degree candidates at graduate schools in the United States. The emphasis is on the improvement of education.

Harry S. Truman Scholarships

The Harry S. Truman Scholarships are open to college juniors who are US citizens and nationals and who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service (government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors).

Morris K. Udall Foundation Environmental Public Policy and Conflict Resolution PhD Fellowships

The Morris K. Udall Foundation awards two PhD dissertation fellowships to graduate students in the areas of environmental public policy or environmental conflict resolution.

Wenner-Gren Fellowships

The Wenner-Gren Foundation awards grants for Dissertation Fieldwork for basic research in anthropology. Candidates for the Dissertation Fieldwork Grants must be enrolled in a program leading to a doctoral degree, and must complete all requirements for the degree other than the dissertation.

National Professional Organizations

National Association of Fellowship Advisors (NAFA)

NAFA is a national professional organization for college personnel who advise students on applying for prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Truman, Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships.


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Celebrate National Volunteer Week in April

Celebrate National Volunteer Week in April

This April, National Volunteer Week is observed April 12-18, 2015. But, that doesn't mean that you should limit your service to one week or, even, one month!

The week is all about celebrating service and according to Points of Light, "is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference."

There's also a lot of history behind the celebration.

"National Volunteer Week, a program of Points of Light, was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each year, with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week."

Interested in volunteering or helping out your community? Here are some resources that'll help you help others:

Easy. Free. Still counts as donating.

Amazon Smile

If you ever shop on Amazon, there's no reason you can't do this. Instead of entering as you usually would, enter through and Amazon will make a donation to the organization of your choice - they have you designate one upon first entry (local or national) when you make purchases.

You don't need a new account, you can use the one you already have. It's just a matter of entering the site with the word "smile" first. It's absolutely no extra cost to you - they just donate a portion of their profits from your purchase. That's it.

Why doesn't eveyone do that? Not everyone knows - so bookmark and spread the word!

Join a community to recognize where change is needed and engage.

All for Good

Affiliated with Points of Light, All for Good, allows you to search and signup for volunteer opportunities, post your own volunteer opportunities or signup to volunteer when a disaster strikes.

The hub connects Americans who want to make a difference with nonprofits, large and small.

If you're able to dedicate an allotted amount of time for a term of service (in exchange for funding):


Each year, AmeriCorps offers opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups.

Members who complete service may be eligible for an Education Award of up to $5,730 (to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans) plus living allowances during their term of service.

Does the thought of animal cruelty make you livid? Then, perhaps this is a good opportunity for you:


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. The site lists ways you can help fight animal cruelty in your community and help save lives!

If you're passionate about pets and animal rescue, why not volunteer with one?

Petfinder makes it easy for people to adopt rescued pets, by making them searchable online. But, that's not all they do!

They have resources for those who want to find volunteer opportunities with animal shelters and rescues if that's the type of volunteer work you'd prefer!

Make a splash by volunteering a mobilized movement.

Points of Light

Points of Light is the World's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. The organization works to mobilize volunteering, making it a movement. They work through innovative programs, events and campaigns to bring people from all over the world together to work for change.

Sign up or search causes on the site to choose which volunteer effort you'd like to join.

If caring, compassion, community service run through your veins:

Student Volunteer Opportunities You'll Love

Remember, you can always help out year-round and not just during a celebratory week!

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Your Test Prep To Do List

Your Test Prep To Do List

We won’t beat around the bush: standardized tests are intimidating for most students. And, rightfully so - anyone would feel pressured with a test that determines one's future.

However, it's important to remember the positive aspects: you have the option to retake the exam as many times as you like and as much time to prep as you need! That being said, the more you prepare and practice, the more confident you’ll feel.

In order to ensure you’ve got all your ducks in a row, we thought a testing to-do list might be helpful and, hopefully, ease some of your worries about the exam.

These may seem like common sense tips but, remember, sometimes common sense goes out the window when you're nervous, scared or worried. That's why it's important to have a list just in case you need help remembering these not-so-common-sense to do's.

Here’s a to-do list so you can prepare before, after and during your standardized tests.

Follow this list to exam success:

1. Register for the ACT/SAT

You can look online for test dates and register for the ACT and SAT online.

2. Take a Test Prep Course

Anything you can do to better prepare yourself for testing, like taking practice courses will help you. It can even help familiarize you with a test-like setting when you take practice exams sitting with other students in a classroom. Experts say practicing in a like-setting can help, so it may benefit your test-taking abilities.

3. Practice Online

Utilize online practice questions as they will help familiarize you with testing words, question wording and formatting.

4. Time Yourself

One of the most difficult aspects of standardized testing students find are the timed portions. Keep track of your timing as you take practice tests, so you’ll be more confident the day of the exam.

5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

While you will be stressed the night before an exam, make sure to try to get a good night’s sleep. That way, you’ll be alert and refreshed on the morning of the test.

6. Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced breakfast the morning of the exam. After all, everyone is more clear-headed on a full stomach and you won't have to worry about your stomach grumbling halfway through the exam.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Retake

If you’re not happy with your first exam score, don’t shy away from trying again.

Often times, nerves get the best of students and they don’t perform as well as they should. The second (or third) time around will be more familiar and, as a result, more successful.

8. Don’t Scramble the Morning of the Exam

Prepare everything you need the night before the exam so you won’t feel rushed in the morning. Your identification, any papers you may need, pencils and a calculator should be packed and ready to go.

9. Consider Hiring a Tutor

If you feel you need more individualized preparation, there are affordable tutors that can help. Often times, your high school will have resources and study groups available free of charge.

10. Relax

Easier said than done, right? But, remember, it is just an exam.

Ultimately, the exam that can be retaken - how many exams can you say that for? Exercise, breathe or do whatever helps to allow you to de-stress.


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Handling Scholarship Essays

Handling Scholarship Essays

The scholarship essay is one of the most important components to your application – no pressure.

It enables the scholarship committee to get to know you a little better but also to assess your intelligence, maturity and ability to represent the scholarship or foundation’s mission.

While all of this may sound intimidating, it doesn’t have to be that way. With some advice and inspiration, you’ll be well on your way to crafting the perfect scholarship application essay.

First, and foremost, follow the directions.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a common mistake for applicants to skim the instructions and risk missing out on some vital information. Not to mention, some scholarship sponsors will throw the application out entirely if any of the directions are not followed. So answer the prompt, double-space (or single-space, if they ask!) your essay and stick to the maximum word count.

On a similar note, once your essay is completed, make sure it’s been proofread multiple times by yourself, one of your parents and a teacher or counselor. Another thing that can get your scholarship essay thrown out besides failing to follow instructions is a typo.

Second, be interesting.

Don’t worry – you don’t have to be the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest or a child prodigy on your way to finding the cure for cancer. You simply have to write an essay that showcases your passion and experiences with an air of authenticity.

Think about what excites you most in life at the moment – a complex algebraic equation that you finally figured out? Your afternoon theatre rehearsals? Last week’s big game? Or one of your parent’s abilities to overcome tough obstacles? Infusing your essay with passion and details about your experience will separate it from the others in that it seems to come alive.

Gather your thoughts with an outline or a recording of yourself talking; this will not only help you get organized but enable you to find some common threads within your experience or passion and essay talking points.

Finally, keep yourself honest.

Scholarship committees will read many essays, and one thing that will set your essay apart from others is authenticity. Many essays will attempt to be too philosophical or exaggerate the truth in order to make a point; and unfortunately for applicants, scholarship judges can see right through all of that.

You don’t have to go through a tragedy or accomplish something truly phenomenal to catch their attention. You simply need to be honest, provide concrete examples and infuse your essay with passion for the subject or prompt you’ve chosen to write about for your application. Good luck with your scholarship essay!


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

What Can I Do If I Regret Applying Early Decision?

Before you submit an Early Decision application to a college or university, you should be 100% certain that you will attend if accepted.

With that said, some students still find themselves in the conundrum of needing or wanting to break an Early Decision agreement – perhaps this describes your situation.

If so, before you move forward with this decision, learn what your next steps are:

1. Speak to the school

There are several reasons why high school students regret submitting Early Decision applications. Maybe your financial aid award is insufficient, perhaps you discovered another school that you love even more, or maybe you would like to take a year off before you start college.

No matter what your motive is, the first thing you should do is reach out to the university.

Tell the staff how you feel, and see what solutions they suggest. If cost is the source of your concern, the school’s financial aid office may be able to direct you to additional resources.

If you would like to take a gap year to travel or work, the college may allow you to defer for one year.

Regardless of your situation, ensure you communicate with the admissions office. Its staff may be far more compassionate and understanding than you suspect.

2. Understand the risks

Typically, a school will disregard an Early Decision agreement only if the student will suffer financial difficulties as a result of attendance. Realizing that you prefer a different college is generally not a sufficient reason to break an Early Decision pact.

If you choose to break the agreement anyway, be aware that you run various risks. The school may speak to other colleges to which you applied and inform them of your actions.

In turn, these universities can rescind their admissions decisions, leaving you with no immediate options.

When you break an Early Decision agreement, it also reflects poorly on your high school. The college in question may think twice before accepting future applicants from your high school, and the university might contact your guidance counselor about your decision. This can be embarrassing for both you and your high school.

3. Come to terms with Early Decision

If you decide that it is best to follow through with your Early Decision agreement, try to make the most of your situation.

Remind yourself of why you applied to that university in the first place – after all, there must have been something about it that you loved. Spend at least one semester at the college, as you may realize that your worries were unfounded.

If you dislike the school after a full semester, remember that you can transfer to a different institution. Although you may dread completing the transfer application process, it is a small price to pay compared to four years of unhappiness.

Early Decision is a serious commitment, and breaking that commitment has consequences.

However, regret over Early Decision does not have to ruin your college experience. Look into your options, contemplate them with a clear head, and choose the one that is best for you.

Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Stony Brook University.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

4 Scholarship Application Tips

4 Scholarship Application Tips

Filling out a scholarship application should be pretty easy, right? You would think answering questions about yourself would be pretty simple, but these applications are asking for more than just your name and address. Scholarship judges are hoping to get to know you as well as what you’re passionate about and working towards in terms of academics and your career.

While every scholarship application is different – as well as every applicant – there are some helpful tips that will apply to everyone and every scholarship:

1. Prepare for the application process.

Most scholarship applications are more than just a form or essay. Some require your high school transcript while others will ask for letters of recommendation. In preparation for the application process, you should start formulating who and what you need from teachers, counselors, etc.

2. Follow the directions.

After filling out countless college and financial aid applications, you may think you’ve got the gist of this whole applying thing; but you should never assume that a scholarship application is like any other form you’ve ever completed. Not that scholarship sponsors are trying to trick you, but following the instructions is paramount. After all, one misstep could have your scholarship application thrown into the trash.

3. Stay organized.

If you’re applying to multiple scholarships, which you should be doing, it can be easy to confuse deadlines. That’s why you should not only keep track of deadlines with your planner or a calendar app, but also organize scholarships in separate folders by name and deadline. In the folder, you can keep all of the components of the scholarship application that you may be working on, like the form, essay and transcript.

4. Check once, check twice and keep track.

Before you submit your scholarship applications, check that you’ve answered every question, followed all instructions and made corrections to all typos and mistakes. If you’re reusing components from another application, make sure you’ve updated anything on the application that may refer to another scholarship or foundation. When sending your application via email, follow up within a week to ensure the scholarship committee received all pieces – or if sending by mail, make sure you purchase tracking and follow-up to guarantee it has been delivered.

Finally, make a copy of all components of each application and store them in their designated folder. This will especially come in handy if you need to review your application before a scholarship interview or supply a component that may have gone missing.

Remember, every scholarship is different, but these application tips will apply to all scholarships to which you apply. By being prepared, focused and organized, you’ll maximize your chances of winning a scholarship.


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