Prep Talk Blog > December 2008

If you have a blog, you may make (or hope to make) money from it. You’re probably imagining that you’ll get your income from advertisements, but did you know that your blog could actually win you a hefty amount of scholarship money for college?

CollegeScholarships.org has an annual scholarship that began in 2006 and is awarded to one college student who also maintains a blog, much like the one you are reading right now. If you are the winning blogger, you will win $10,000 to put toward college books, tuition, or even living costs. Smaller prizes are awarded to several runners-up.

Here’s how it works: You submit an essay about your blog that is 300 words or less. Then, a panel of judges narrows the entrants down to 10 finalists, and the winner is selected through public online voting. To win, you must be currently enrolled in post-secondary education. You also must have a unique and interesting blog about you or things you are passionate about – no spam blogs allowed! 

What should your essay be about? It’s up to you, but you should write it like you would a blog post – short, sweet, and informative. Sample topics provided by CollegeScholarships.org include:

  • What powerful social change you have seen come out of blogging
  • The most inspiring blog post you’ve ever read
  • What blogging means to you
  • Why you started blogging

This year’s application deadline passed in October, but because this scholarship is offered every year, you should work on developing your blog now so you will be in a prime spot to win next year!  It’s never too early to be thinking about how you will pay for your college education. 
If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get started now. You can use a free service such as Wordpress, LiveJournal, or Blogger. Happy writing!

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With all the talk of an unprecedented economic crisis, you may have fears that finding student loans will be impossible. In tough times, people panic, but it helps to know the facts. First, take a deep breath; financial aid is still available to students. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) says the current credit crisis is mainly affecting lending in the real estate market, not in education. According to the NASFAA:

  • Pell Grants, federal work study programs, educational tax benefits, and other vital parts of student financial aid are generally not suffering.
  • Federal loans should still be as accessible as they were before. Even students who don't qualify for federal loans can still receive Stafford Loans.
  • Only a small number of students – perhaps 5 percent or less – will have trouble obtaining private or alternative loans for education. (And remember, private loans are only to be used as a last resort. Before taking one out, consider Federal Perkins and PLUS Loans, which are excellent alternatives.)
  • Do you need good credit to get student loans from the government? No way! The government knows that you are young and likely haven't yet had the chance to build up credit. You can still receive federal education loans regardless of whether you have good or bad credit.

So remember, despite a troubled economy, there is still money to be had for students who need financial aid for a college education.

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Don't cheat yourself with self-defeating financial aid myths! According to Sallie Mae, the number of people attending college in a family is a determining factor in awarding financial aid. So even if your brother or sister didn't get any aid, they may have tipped the family budget balance in your favor.

The only way to know for sure is to fill out the FAFSA. It's free and so is the government aid you may be qualified to receive. Just make sure you don't get suckered into paying someone else to file for you. FAFSA is always free- no "professional" has special access to government dough, so don't let "financial aid consultants" take yours!

Think your family income is too high for you to get aid? Not sure if you can get assistance as a part-time student? Sallie Mae debunks these myths and more on their website.

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Are you getting contacted by colleges from unexpected places? You may be on their geographic diversity radar!

You probably know that college admissions is a two-way street: you pick colleges and they pick you. When you fill out a college search survey or build your profile, one of the sections is devoted to states where you would like to attend college. When colleges search for students, they are often actively seeking students in a certain state, city, or even high school. Why? Because most colleges put a lot of thought into their campus diversity! One way of achieving a great, representative student body is to recruit from a variety of schools, cities, and states.

"Geographic diversity" is fancy college admissions shop talk for branching out and exploring new territories. Basically, colleges have recruiting radars that detect group and individual student characteristics that they think will help them achieve their future enrollment and institutional goals. One of the things that set off their recruiting radar is where you are from. Most colleges genuinely want variety in their applicant pool and try to attract students from different places who will participate in their programs and enrich the campus environment. If the college has determined that they want more students to represent your area, it's a big leg up for you in the admissions process!

So here is a very simple but powerful tip: Explore colleges beyond your home base or your high school's most commonly attended colleges. You may be a stronger candidate than you think because of where you're from.

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Do you think it's fair if college admissions professionals "google" you or look at your Facebook profile during the admissions process?
Yes. If it's out there, it's fair game.
No. If it's not part of my official application package, it shouldn't be considered.
I don't know.
The poll is closed.

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