Tackling Tuition Part 1: Introduction and Finding Scholarships

The average cost of tuition at 4-year public and private nonprofit universities is at an all time high. Of course, this probably does not come as a surprise to any prospective collegiate; countless think pieces and in-depth reports have publicized the unwelcome facts: over 59 percent of graduates are burdened with student loans; Americans borrow over 100 billion dollars for student loans each year; the average price of tuition for a 4-year private university is well over 30,000 dollars annually; and so on.


Because so much has already been said about the state of U.S. higher education, I won’t belabor these bleak statistics any further. Initially, I wanted this series to investigate why tuition is increasing so dramatically, but after some consideration, I decided that, interesting as the “why” may be, it wasn’t really going to help students reduce college expenses. Instead, I want to present some options that may help ameliorate the financial burden of American higher education, the first one being Scholarships.

Other than winning the lottery, scholarships are about the closest thing to “free money” out there. However, scholarships rarely just fall into one’s lap, so here are some resources for finding and applying for scholarships both large and small.

When looking for scholarships, start your search with one of the many scholarship search engines available. Google-searching “scholarship search engine” gives a long list of resources, but I want to provide brief assessments of some of the biggest ones to aid your search:

  1. Fastweb.com

Like many scholarship search engines, you must create an account to get started. Although it takes a few minutes to set up, Fastweb really does supply a huge number of college and scholarship resources. I think of this site as the Amazon.com of college resources in both design and navigation: much of your profile is devoted to scholarships the site thinks you’ll like, and each scholarship page provides links to similar scholarships. However, the site is also a bit flashy and ad-heavy, which can be distracting on an academic-centric site such as this.

Assessment: Lots of options and high customization make this a great resource for seeking out and sorting scholarships, but the interface may be a bit overwhelming at first.

  1.   Chegg.com

This site does not require you to create an account to start your scholarship search, so it’s a great option for those looking to test the waters before beginning a full-fledged scholarship search. But you can also apply search filters (such as age and GPA) to obtain a manageable number of results. The strongest feature of this search engine (other than the fact that it links you to an astounding number of scholarships)  is its clean and simple navigation: no ads; no popups; just a long list of scholarships, each of which lists the amount of money awarded and the application deadline. And if you see something you like, you can create a Chegg account and save your favorites for later.

Assessment: If you want to start searching right away and prefer a stripped-down site over a flashy one, then Chegg.com is for you.

  1.       Scholarships.com

This search engine comes across as a hybrid of the two that I’ve previously discussed: like Fastweb, this site requires you to create a profile before searching for scholarships, so it allows for immediate and thorough customization. But like Chegg, its navigation and design are simple and straightforward.

Assessment: If you’re willing to put a bit of time into creating a comprehensive profile, this is an invaluable resource that combines many of the strengths of its competitors.

Although the Internet contains a multitude of scholarship resources, there are also many scholarship opportunities in the real world. In addition to searching online, look around your community. Local nonprofits, service clubs (such as the Kiwanis or Rotary International), and small business may offer small scholarships that will have significantly less competition than many of those found online. And finally, consider having your parents aid your scholarship search. Many companies offer scholarship opportunities for the children of their employees. Like those found in your community, these scholarships are often less competitive than those advertised online.

Finding Scholarships: Graduation

Taking the Next Step

Once you’ve found your favorite scholarship search engine(s) and have located some promising scholarships, the hard work of actually applying begins. While there is no shortcut or loophole that will guarantee you’ll be swimming in scholarships, there are some steps you can take to improve your odds:

  • Cast a Wide Net

Being awarded scholarships is a numbers game. Since you don’t know how many others are applying for any one scholarship, your best bet is to apply for as many as possible. After all, one scholarship that you think you have a good shot at getting might have 1,000 applicants, whereas one you’re considering dismissing because it seems boring or difficult might only have 10 applicants.

  • Look for Scholarships with Essay Requirements

These scholarships usually require more work and thought than others, and that’s why you should apply for them. Most students want to do as little work as possible, so they avoid applying for scholarships with writing requirements. Thus, pursuing these potentially onerous applications essentially guarantees less competition.

  • There Are No Optional Questions

Applications with blank or incomplete fields (even if they’re marked “Optional”) are significantly less likely to be awarded scholarship prizes.

  • Be Good to Do Well

Scholarships are awarded on the basis of character as often as academic achievement, so make sure you present yourself accordingly. Make sure your social media doesn’t include incriminating photos or posts. When relating a personal accomplishment, describe how it helped you grow, or better yet, how it helped others. And most importantly, get involved in your community: volunteer, or start a school club. Not only does this look great on college and scholarship applications, but it is also genuinely rewarding to help others.

If you want advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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Tough Questions: Part 1

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Occasionally on the SAT (or other standardized or nonstandardized tests), you’ll come across a problem that’s absolutely atrocious. Sometimes it will seem nearly impossible. Other times, you may know how to solve the question, but it’s so difficult and time-consuming that you may be better off skipping it entirely. Take a look at this example of a hard SAT math problem:

 

“In a car race, David gives Peter a head start of 10 miles. David’s car goes 80 miles per hour, and Peter’s car goes 60 miles per hour. How long, in minutes, will it take David to catch up to Peter if they leave their starting marks at the same time?

ANSWER: _____________________________”

Hard SAT Math Problem: Confusion

This is a perfect example of a question I would love to skip. I’ll even guess on this question if I’m running out of time, because I already know it’s going to take a few minutes to set up and solve the problem. And because it is a multi-part problem, I’m much more liable to make a calculation error at some point. If that happens, all my hard work will be for naught, so I may as well guess with an equally low chance of getting the question right. Remember, the SAT doesn’t penalize you for guessing, so it’s always in your best interest to answer every question. Even outrageously difficult free response math questions.

 

Okay, let’s pretend you finished the entire math section with a few minutes to spare. You’re feeling confident, and you notice this problem which you’d initially set aside. You guessed at the question and even bubbled in an answer on your answer sheet. But now you’d like to solve it. As I already mentioned, this is a multi-part question, and the first step is simply understanding what is being asked and how to utilize the numbers given. The problem itself asks you to find how long it will take David to overtake Peter in a car race with some given conditions. Notice that they’ve asked you to solve in minutes, but the cars’ speeds are given in miles per hour. This a great example of how overlooking one small detail can cause you to make a calculation error, thus wasting your valuable time. (Just to reiterate: guessing isn’t bad.)

 

So, I personally like to convert the speeds given to miles per minute to make the following calculations easier. Also, the numbers lend themselves nicely, as 60 mph = 1 mpm, and 80 mph = 1.33 mpm. Now, we want to know when the two cars will meet if Peter (in the slow car) has a 10 mile head start. Here, we have to assume both cars are capable of accelerating from 0 to maximum speed instantaneously, which is a tragic flaw in many math problems. In any case, we can set the distances each car travels equal to each other in the following equation:

 

(1 mile/min) X min + 10 miles = (1.33 miles/min) X min

 

Solving for X, we find:

 

10 miles = (0.33 miles/min) X min → X = 30 mins

 

Of course, once we parsed the necessary information from the question, translated it to a useful format, converted units and created an equation, the calculation was simple. But each of those steps invites us to make an error, especially when nerves are high as they often are during the SAT. It’s important to take a systematic approach to these types of problems, but it’s also important to know when a question is more trouble than it’s worth.

If you want more advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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Welcome to History’s the Word

Welcome to History’s the Word

Learning the origin of a word is often enlightening. Doing so may reveal something unexpected; for example, every instance of the word “check” comes from the Persian word for “king” (more on that in a later post). It may reveal something humorous: the word “feisty” comes from the Middle English word fist, which means “fart.”Or it may reveal something about the culture from which the term derives. It’s this last type that we’ll be exploring today through the words “spartan” and “laconic.”

Word Origins: Map
Fightin’ Words

Unsurprisingly, both these terms hearken back to ancient Greece–more specifically, to Sparta. When asked about Spartans, those who saw the 2007 film 300 will probably describe Spartans as Speedo-clad warriors who bravely fought off the Persians. And while 300 took very extensive artistic liberties, it did get one thing 100 percent correct: the Spartans lived to fight. In fact, pretty much all of Spartan society was structured around being as loyal, resourceful, and fearless as possible.

While neither “spartan” nor “laconic” have anything to do with with fighting itself, exploring the origins of these words reveals quite a bit about the conditions which bred a society of warriors. Let’s begin with “spartan,” which describes one who is indifferent to comfort or luxury. Actually, this definition understates Spartan severity; even at the peak of the city-state’s influence and power (around 400 BCE), the life of a Spartan was unimaginably rough. In Sparta, only the strong survived. Newborns were bathed in wine to gauge their toughness. (Apparently not drowning in wine was a good litmus test for fortitude.) Any infant deemed weak or deformed was tossed into a chasm. If a male child survive these initial trials, at age seven he would begin decades of austere military training and would remain in the active reserve until age 60. The child’s military training doubled as his classical education, and unique punishments were reserved for students whose responses were not sufficiently laconic (witty and succinct).

Indeed, this pity manner of speaking  is so closely associated with Spartans that it, like the term “spartan,” is actually named after them. In antiquity, “Sparta” referred to the city-state’s main settlement–the region as a whole was often called ”Laconia” and its inhabitants “Lacedaemonians.” Thus, to speak “laconically” is to speak like a Spartan. And as if to ensure their historical legacy as the ultimate action-movie heroes, many recorded laconic phrases make great one-liners. For instance, during Macedonian King Philip II’s conquest of Greece, he sent a message to Sparta that read:

“You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army onto your land, I

will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”

The Spartan leaders responded with a single word: “If.” Neither Philip II nor his son, Alexander the Great, ever attempted to take the city. Another laconic phrase derives from the Battle of Thermopylae, where a Spartan warrior was told that the Persian army was so large that its arrows would block out the sun. To this, the Spartan replied, “So much the better, we’ll fight in the shade.” Over 2,000 years later, this very line was used in the film 300, proving definitively that the Spartans did, in fact, produce great movie one-liners.

Ultimately, I find these words fascinating because they allow us to view an oft-studied and depicted culture through different lenses. The casual observer might claim that Spartans were great warriors simply because they were stronger, faster, and trained harder than their opponents. And while all that may be true, it ignores the fact that Spartan society centered on war. Their discipline in battle was an extension of the spartan lives they led at home and the lean, laconic way they composed their speech.

If you want advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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Anecdote: A Failure to Face Failure

Anecdote: A Failure to Face Failure

 

In high school, and maybe even before that, I developed a bad habit of turning in assignments only if they were 100 percent complete. If I didn’t understand a concept, the corresponding assignment was not likely to make it to the teacher. Intellectually, I knew that homework was more about putting in effort than showing mastery over some subject or concept. But I just couldn’t bring myself to turn in something incomplete, or something I knew contained more wrong than right. Needless to say, this habit didn’t do any favors to my GPA.

However, I’m not a perfectionist by nature. Far from it. One reason I avoided taking any math in college was that I historically made too many arithmetic mistakes by rushing through tests and failing to double-check my work. Even when doing something as simple as putting together furniture from IKEA, I’m more likely to shrug and move on when a screw’s missing or a chair comes out a bit crooked.

So I think my failure to turn in adequate assignments was a compulsion, not an impulsion. That is, when in high school (and to a certain extent today), I didn’t feel an internal drive toward perfection. Rather, I felt that others expected perfection from me, and if I couldn’t deliver on that perfection, there was no point in even trying.

Educational Challenges: Confusion

Ironically, trying to appear perfect by only submitting assignments that I felt were perfect hurt me much more than fessing up to my imperfections and just turning in what I could. More than simply hurting my GPA, my self-imposed perfectionism stunted me. Every assignment I didn’t turn in was an avoidance of rejection. As far as my high-school self was concerned, I could never fail if I didn’t try. And consequently, I never really learned anything that came as a challenge. If I had a knack for something, great. I’d bank on never really failing at it. If I struggled with something, I’d surrender. Ultimately, by trying to appear perfect to those around me, I drifted further and further from personal and intellectual growth.

What I tell myself now is that people don’t scrutinize me as much as I do myself. Everyone is the center of their own universe, so I highly doubt that most people even notice my failures. And anyone who tries to use my failures as a weapon against me is petty and insecure, so who needs ‘em.

Of course, telling myself this is only partially successful. It’s hard to break a well-established habit like avoiding failure; I still struggle to put myself in situations where failure is a strong possibility, or where people might judge me as less than perfect. Writing blogs, for instance, is something I’ve always been loath to attempt largely for those reasons.

But I feel that these struggles with avoiding struggle are worth writing about because many people face them to some degree. Fundamentally, we want to take the path of least resistance, and when there are so many paths open to us, it’s easy to ignore anything that causes challenge or strife.

If you want advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 

 


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College Talk

Susanna Heckman

The daughter of my next-door neighbor recently left for college.

“There’s SOOOO much reading!” she texted me a few weeks into the semester. “And there are so many people you wouldn’t expect to meet.”

At college, most students are not involved in a never-ending party, contrary to depictions in movies. Most college students are sitting around studying most of the time. Somehow, though, it is the opposite of boring. College is all about surprises.

The lectures, discussion sections, labs, and yes, the massive reading material, infuse the very air with little tiny particles of “For Real?” and “No Way!” At college, you learn just from talking with other students because those little idea electrons are just jumping everywhere. People are talking – not just in required discussion sections, but at coffee shops, on buses, in locker rooms. People are talking while they wash dishes at their job downtown, people are talking while they play Frisbee golf or walk to their drumming circles. People are talking when they are supposed to be studying.

When I went to college in the mid-1980s, it was as though I had stepped out of a door into the world. Suddenly I was surrounded by incredible people. Students were talking about protesting apartheid in South Africa. One of my friends traveled to help Cambodian refugees in Thailand. I met a student who had gone to Nicaragua to help harvest coffee beans in support of its “revolution.” One campus play I attended was about experiences of Chinese peasants.

College Advice: Lecture

People were debating whether the campus newspaper should have a Women’s Section. Members of the LGBT community were talking about coming out to their parents. New Age philosophies were in the air, and I remember arguing with a date about whether individuals are really wholly responsible for their situations in life.

Then there were the really important topics: Should so many clothes be made for Barbie dolls? Who is more original, Madonna or Cyndi Lauper? Should a person jog before, or after, yoga class? What is the best food to bring to a three-day music festival?

As I was trying to select courses for my senior year, I remember talking with my dad. I told him that I had satisfied most of my requirements for graduating and for my major, and I was thinking rather guiltily about taking an elective – Creative Writing 1.

“It would be just for fun,” I said. “It doesn’t satisfy anything.”

“Anything except, perhaps, Susanna,” my dad said.

I took the course.

I never became a famous fiction writer as a result, but something else happened. I met a young man in the class who seemed to be my soul-mate. We talked and talked. That “young” man and I are now coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary.

Maybe the day will come when all classes are online. In that case, no one will have to take the bus to school, or buy coffee in the coffee shops. No one will be marked “tardy” or “absent,” and no one will need to worry about falling asleep in class. But still, I hope not. I hope that college continues to be about meeting people you wouldn’t expect to meet.

If you want advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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Introducing Painless SAT Preparation

Introducing Painless SAT Preparation: If you were to ask the majority of students how they prepare for the SAT, you’d likely get some combination of, “My parents hired a private tutor,” “I took an SAT class with a bunch of other students,” or “I took practice tests until my eyes bled.” And for many students, these methods are effective. However, when it comes to SAT prep, effective is often synonymous with painful and boring. So, while you shouldn’t forego SAT classes and practice tests entirely, there are a number of ways to supplement your SAT preparation that won’t bore you to tears.

This “Painless SAT Preparation” series is ongoing, with new tips added each week. I’ll start by providing a few tips on how to make SAT Reading Test preparation a bit easier, but you can expect to see some Writing & Language and Math Test tips soon. So check back often for more tips and tricks!

Painless SAT Preparation: The Reading Test, Part 1

SAT Preparation

 

The main goal of the SAT Reading Test is to determine how well you understand what you read. Many students I talk to claim to read very little or not at all, but I find this hard to believe. Most people read much more than they realize.

Nearly all information online is written, so whenever you read a movie review, check advice on the best NBA draft picks, or peruse a blog—you’re reading. Admittedly, most blogs (this one included) are not as dense or eloquent as an SAT Reading Test passage, but online content can still provide solid SAT preparation, provided you pay attention to what you read. Because, although the SAT Reading Test consists of 52 questions, most of them are basically asking you to assess what a passage says, why a passage was written, or how a passage conveys information. So the next time you’re reading something, be it online or in print, try to do one or more of the following:

  1. Summarize what you read:

    Quickly recapping information helps you ensure that you understand what you’re reading. If a sentence or paragraph is particularly confusing, try rewording it in terms that are easier for you to understand. Doing so will help you better remember what you read.

  2. Determine an author’s purpose:

    Everything is written for a reason. Some writing is meant to persuade, some to inform, and some to entertain. Most writing serves more than one purpose. This blog, for example serves to inform in a (hopefully) entertaining way. Identifying purpose helps you understand why an author wants you to read his or her work.

  3. Pay attention to presentation:

    Here, “presentation” refers to the organization and tone of a piece of writing. When looking at organization, first determine how the author arranges information; then determine how this arrangement affects your attitude toward what you’re reading. For example, if a piece of writing begins with an anecdote, it might indicate that the author is trying to establish a friendly relationship with his or her audience.

About the author: Evan Gerdisch is a writer and editor employee at Kallis Prep, where he has helped develop over a dozen study guides, and has served as a freelance SAT and ACT tutor for over four years.

If you want more advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 
Even more practice materials and SAT resources can be found at KallisEDU.com.

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