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Financial Aid May Come for Students Who Wait

Getting together enough money to attend your school of choice can be a financial nightmare, especially in difficult financial times. However, in some cases, tough financial times can actually benefit students–if you’re willing to wait a few months to see if additional financial aid becomes available from a school of your choice.

There are no guarantees, of course. However, with fewer students accepting spots at pricey schools because of the poor economy, many schools find themselves with extra money in the summer–along with extra incentive to negotiate, as empty enrollment spots aren’t the least bit beneficial for a school, either financially or in terms of morale. This is a financial aid phenomenon that’s called “the summer melt.”

So how do you get access to this kind of last minute funding? For starters, talk to someone in the financial aid office to see if this funding is available. Try to find someone who’s both sympathetic and (perhaps most important) knowledgeable about what’s actually available. If possible, a visit to the school, as opposed to phone calls and emails, can help you get to the bottom of things–and demonstrate to the financial aid office that the student in question is highly enthusiastic about the school and is a good fit. It helps, of course, if the student in question is someone that the school would really like to admit.




7 Ways to Succeed on the First Day of Class

college classroomThe first day of class is not big deal, right? Wrong! Many students blow off this day and don’t take it seriously—and that’s a mistake. Professors and other college instructors spend the first day of class setting the tone for the class and going over the important information you need to do well in the class.

It’s also important to take the first day seriously because that helps you get into the right mindset for the rest of the semester. It’s kind of like going on a diet. If you don’t take it seriously the first day, how are you going to get into the habit of eating right and exercising more? Which doesn’t mean that diets don’t fail—and that your classroom experience won’t be a failure—but neither diet nor a college class is likely to go very well if you don’t get into the habit right away of taking it seriously.

Here’s how to succeed on your first day of class:

  1. Be there. There’s no way around this. If you’re not there, you’ll miss key information. And believe me, as a former professor, I knew who wasn’t there– and this made a terrible first impression! Nothing says, “I don’t intend to take your class seriously” more than not showing up on day one. So if circumstances dictate that you can’t be there on day one (and sometimes they do) be sure to call your professor ASAP, apologize, and arrange to stop by his or her office to get the syllabus and to chat about what you missed.
  2. Pay attention to the course expectations. The purpose of the first day is to let you know what’s expected of you in the class. The teacher will probably give you a syllabus and go over it. Knowing what’s expected of you is necessary before you can succeed—so be sure you know.
  3. Ask questions. If something that the syllabus or the professor says about the course expectations are unclear, ask questions. Don’t be shy—this is information you need to know.
  4. Be friendly. Say hi to the professor and your fellow students. I’m not kidding. Help create a pleasant classroom atmosphere from day one by being nice.
  5. Participate in whatever is asked of you. Perhaps the teacher will include an ice breaking exercise, or ask the students some questions. Do what you’re supposed to do, or you risk making a bad impression.
  6. Get a hold of required materials immediately. On the first day class, you’ll find out which books and other materials you need. Don’t procrastinate. Take care of getting what you need now before the semester becomes very busy.
  7. Do your homework. Is there a homework or reading assignment due soon? Even if it’s not due the first night, do it as soon as you can. This is a fantastic way of getting off to a good start, and also freeing up time later when you’re more busy.



The Benefits of College Campus Tours

One of the essentials when deciding on a college is visiting the campus. Visiting a campus can ultimately help you make the decision on whether or not you want to go to a particular college.

One factor that can really be decided upon when visiting a campus is whether or not you want a small, medium, or large school. Try to plan your visit during the school year when there are students on campus, so you can get a true feel for what life is like on a typical day. You can get a feel for the layout of the campus, how far classes are from dorms, and just how crazy the campus can be! A great option for when you narrow your schools down is to do an overnight visit where you can stay with a student and get a feel for the other activities on campus besides just the classes!

I just reTrinity Bell Towercently went on a family vacation and visited Trinity down in San Antonio, Texas, one of the colleges to which I plan on applying. The visit consisted of a campus tour that lasted approximately an hour with a student who stayed for part of the summer to give tours; and then we got to meet with an admissions counselor.

With the counselor, me and another girl on the tour sat down and got to have a very relaxed question and answer session that helped us understand more about Trinity, their application process, and how exactly our school year (particularly focusing on the freshman year) would look. This visit not only sold me on Trinity, but also the fact that I wanted to attend a smaller school because of their personal attention it appeared I would receive.

So if you are having a hard decision deciding on particular colleges, or better yet the size of the college you wish to attend, then pay some campuses a visit! By visiting, can you really begin to decide which schools are right for you!




Liberal Arts Colleges: More Affordable than you Thought?

Liberal arts colleges have a great deal to offer, like small class sizes, great teaching, personal attention, a strong sense of community. But with a yearly price tag of anywhere between $25,000 and $45,000, is a liberal arts college education something beyond your reach?

Maybe. But maybe not. Here’s the secret many students don’t know about liberal arts colleges: many of them offer very generous financial aid packages. These come in the form of both needs-based and merit-based scholarships, both of which are awarded in addition to student loans, work study, outside scholarships, and other forms of outside financial aid. In many cases, the price of a liberal arts college can actually be comparable or even cheaper to the price of a state school!

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: Allegheny College, a terrific liberal arts college located in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Tuition, room, board, and fees run students a whopping $40,000 a year. Eek! However, very few students actually pay that much to attend Allegheny. About a third of all students receive a merit-based scholarship of $12,500 a year. In addition, the average need-based award for freshmen is about $18,000 a year. So if a student is eligible for the merit-based scholarship and the average need based one, suddenly Allegheny College costs less than $10,000 a year. Not cheap, but the student can make up some of the rest of that with loans and other kinds of financial aid.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone who attends Allegheny—and you may not get such a sweet deal at the liberal arts college of your choice. But if you’re interested in this type of school, don’t rule it out—especially if you’re a strong student and/or a student with a good deal of financial need. Apply to a number of small colleges, and take the time to visit them, as these schools often want to meet with you to see if you’re a good fit. When those fat envelopes come in the mail, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the price tag.




Balancing School and Extra Curricular Activities

Having such a busy school schedule such as mine, many find it hard to balance school work and time to fit other activities into their busy schedule. While many claim (who have much less to do school wise) they have no time for extra curricular activities, I know many students (especially IB) who are fairly involved in their communities and organizations outside of school.

Those who say that they cannot find any activities to do probably aren’t searching hard enough or in the right places! Many schools have bulletin boards that display certain organizations or communities that need some sort of volunteer work done, and these boards (especially for IB students since we have to get a certain amount of community service hours) can be very helpful in providing a variety of service opportunities for all students.

Another great way to get involved is through an organization such as the United Way. I am in a student-based group called YOUnited Teens that meets once monthly, and provides different volunteer activities and ways to meet other students/youth in your area! It’s a great group because while you are helping others out, you also get to have a great time with people who are your age.

Of course, extra curricular activities may not only include volunteer work. It can also include scouts, youth group, sports, or a variety of other activities that keep you busy outside of school and make you a well-rounded individual, someone who doesn’t spend their free time stuck at home or with their nose always in their school work!

college admissionsInspiration for this blog comes from a book that all the IB Juniors at my school had to read this past spring titled “Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean” by Joyce Slayton Mitchell. In her book, Mitchell discusses how colleges look for students who are diverse, or in other words, students that do a variety of activities, not just one or two things. Showing that not only does your acceptance depend on numbers, but also the ability for you to fit into the community, and colleges can tell whether or not you will fit in by your extra curricular activities.

So, if you are afraid of the numbers, then get involved! There are many different ways to get involved and adding volunteer work and other activities will make a resume look even better to a college admissions dean!




Wordless Wednesday: Prepare for the Dorms

Prepare for the dorms this summer.




20 Easy Campus Life Health Tips

A college education isn’t necessarily good for your health. Between stress, deadlines, easy access to junk food, and lots of alcohol, students don’t always take care of themselves. For a healthier lifestyle, here are some simple tips to incorporate into your everyday life on campus. Don’t worry—you don’t have to do all of these—but by mixing some of these ideas into your routine, you’ll improve your health little by little.

Bike around campus whenever possible.

  1. Walk or bike whenever possible. (This saves money on gas too!)
  2. Avoid eating pizza and other goodies in the middle of the night.
  3. Work in exercise by taking a physical education class.
  4. Carry around a water bottle.
  5. Eat breakfast every day, even if it’s just a piece of a fruit or a quick bowl of cereal.
  6. Make time to schedule in regular doctor and dentist appointments.
  7. Try to keep exams and other stress in perspective–the consequences of failure probably aren’t as dire as you think!
  8. As much as possible, stick to a regular sleep schedule. Remember, sleep needs to be a priority, no matter what.
  9. Carry healthy snacks in your backpack, like fruit or healthful snack bars.
  10. If you eat at a campus dining hall, limit consumption of soda. Drink lots of water, along with moderate servings of milk and juice.
  11. Keep in mind that binge drinking is as bad for your waistline as it is for the rest of your body.
  12. Don’t use exams and other stressful academic times as an excuse to pig out– at least not too much!
  13. Limit fast food consumption. It’s quick, easy, and cheap when you’re a student, but don’t overdo it.
  14. Look for healthier fast food alternatives around campus, like a snack cart that sells hummus and pita, or a sub shop that sells healthier sandwiches.
  15. Deal with stress with brisk walks or jogs.
  16. As much as possible, try to stick to regular meal times.
  17. Don’t be shy about using the campus mental health center if you need someone to talk to, or need more serious help.
  18. Get a flu shot, as college campuses are full of people in close proximity and all of their germs.
  19. If you use dorm showers, be sure to wear flip flops to protect your feet.
  20. Never cut down on calories so you can consume more alcohol.



Top 5 Studying Tips For the High School Student

There is only one way to feel prepared for a test. I’m sure you all know that the best way to prepare yourself for a test is to study. Of course, studying can often be a very daunting or boring task, but I have thought of 5 tips in hopes to make studying a little less daunting/boring.

1. Know what will be on the test- One of the best things for you to do is to talk to your teacher about what will be on the test. Most of my teachers take a day (normally the day before) to go over a test and everything the test will cover. If your teacher does not do this, or if you want it before the actual review you will get in class, then go in and talk to your teacher before or after class or during a convenient time for both of you to get all the materials you need.

Study materials

2. Have all materials- Make sure when you finally sit down to study to have all your materials with you. Any books or notes you will need be sure to have them so you won’t have to stop in the middle of your study session to search for a book or a random page of notes you have seem to misplaced.

3. Don’t Cram- This is probably the most important tip I have. For some that have an amazing short term memory, cramming either right before the test or the night before the test works. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for us all. Starting a few days before the test and going over a little bit each night (while covering what you did the night before) will allow you to better learn the materials and with a better understanding of the materials you are more likely to do better on the test. Also, not cramming allows for the information to be stored better in the long term memory and will allow for you to later access the information rather than sticking it in your short term and forgetting it as soon as you are done with the test.

4. Go somewhere comfortable- Being comfortable is key when studying. Go somewhere that you will be comfortable but also that will place you in conditions much like the conditions you will be in on the test day. Placing yourself in such conditions (that are similar to test day) will better allow for recall of information you studied while taking the test.

5. Get a group together- If you find it difficult to study alone, or just hate studying alone, then get a group together! Studying in a group has its benefits. If there are questions you have, then there will be other students available for you to discuss and answer your questions. While the problem with groups is that being with friends can lead to distractions and even not studying. So be sure you choose your group wisely, picking those you know will study and not cause distractions.

I hope these tips allow for more successful study time that will make you a better test taker!





College Freshmen Choose New Orleans Schools in Record Numbers

Tule University in New Orleans

Looking for an incredible college town with world class nightlife, an unbelievable music scene, incredible food, and all kinds of amazing things to see and do? And do you mind if that incredible college town is a bit of a fixer-upper? Despite the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, record numbers of incoming freshmen are choosing New Orleans as their college town. There are three main colleges and universities in New Orleans– Tulane, Loyola, and Xavier— and applications and admission to all of these schools are up since pre-Katrina days.

In fact, interest in Tulane was so high that the school had to shut down its online application process, and had to stop accepting applications altogether in January. Newsweek put Tulane on it’s 25 hottest schools list– and dubbed it the “Hottest Rebound School” because of its recovery after Katrina.

A city building its way back from Katrina may not be the best choice for anyone. But many students are choosing New Orleans because it’s in transition. The rebuilding of a city is a big deal, and students can be a part of this. For students who are interested in community service, of course, post-Katrina New Orleans has countless opportunities to pitch in and make a real difference in people’s lives.

And besides, New Orleans is amazing. The biggest problem with going to school there may be that there are too many fun distractions to keep students from their work.




Student Loan Consolidation Explained With Play-Doh

Do you need some basic information about how student loan consolidation works? And do you like to make things out of green Play-Doh? From FinancialAidPodcast.com, here’s a video that uses Play-Doh to demonstrate the basics of student loan consolidation:

Overall, I’d say this is pretty useful– and a pretty smart way– to use something as simple as Play-Doh to describe an idea that can confuse students quite a bit.

However, there’s one part of the loan consolidation picture the video more or less ignores– interest payments over the long term. The thing is, if you stretch out your Play-Doh (i.e. loan payments) over a longer period of time, you pay a lot more interest. The overall pile of green Play-Doh magically oozes to a larger and larger size, even as you slice off bit by bit at that compounding green Play-Doh pond thing once a month.

In other words, if it all possible, don’t spread your student loans out over longer periods of time, even if you consolidate your loans (which you can do without extending the payback period). Remember, when it comes to your green Real-Dough, you want to keep as much as possible.




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