Prep Talk Blog > November 2008

Are you a champ with duct tape? Do you love designing clothing? Do you hate writing essays but need money for college? Each year, the Duck brand duct tape holds an unusual scholarship contest. Winning isn't based on writing skills, test scores, or whether you have a family member who works at a certain company; it is purely based on your ability to make killer prom outfits out of -- you guessed it -- duct tape.

The contest is open to any high school student aged 14 and above who is attending a spring prom. You and your date must attend prom in outfits made primarily of duct tape, capture it on camera, and submit it to be in the running. You win as a couple.

If you're imagining a boring, gray outfit, fear not! Duck Tape comes in a large variety of colors, such as aqua, brown, camo green, pink, and yellow

After the contest ends, Duck Tape selects a top 10 group. Winners are then decided by online voting. If you and your date win first place, you will each get $3,000 cash scholarships, and the school that hosted the prom will get a $3,000 cash prize. Second place winners get $2,000 each and the hosting school gets $2,000. For third place, it's $1,000 for each individual and the school. Here are some of the basic guidelines:

  • You have to buy and pay for the tape yourself.
  • You can add extra decorations besides duct tape, but outfits made entirely of tape usually win. Look at the scholarship's website,, to see pictures of past winners and get tips.
  • It's okay if the prom couple is same-sex or if your date is in college or goes to another school.
  • There's no limit as to how long you have to wear the outfit, so you could show up in the outfits, take the required picture, then change into something more comfortable.
  • If you win, you must ship your winning attire to Duck Tape and you will not get it back.

Because the prizes are cash scholarships, you can actually use the money for anything you want, though we highly recommend you put it toward college!

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This week on MyCollegeOptions:

  • Expect to be fickle when it comes to a college major.
  • Community college is looking appealing to many families struggling in this economic climate.
  • But is there any truth in the stereotype that community college is like "high school after high school"?
  • If all else fails, pay your way with duct tape.

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Over the years, I have heard this gem of a college description used by kids who were bent on division one colleges with mucho snob appeal. Granted, community colleges are not nationally known with the big marketing and recruiting budgets- but does this mean they are not as good?

Let's break down where this myth may be coming from. Community colleges, like high schools, accept pretty much anyone. And, that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Community colleges, unlike high schools:

  • Are not forced attendance
  • Significantly enhance your ability to advance in your future career beyond entry level and, over your lifetime, will create higher income opportunities
  • Are a doorway to a four year degree often through the state university at half the cost (on average)
  • Often have very flexible schedules to accommodate virtually any type of student with work and/or family responsibilities

Let's bust this myth once and for all: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, community college enrollment is booming!

Perhaps, more students are swerving to avoid mountains of student loan debt in favor of small classes and a very transferrable two year degree.

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Choosing a college based upon your major interest is one approach to making sure you get what you want out of your college future. But, should it be your main deciding factor? According to Julia Barlow Sherlock, Director of Career Services at Central Michigan University, half of the university's students will change majors an average of three times! This is not an isolated trend in Michigan; most of us will switch degree tracks a few times before we march to "Pomp and Circumstance". Think about how much you have already changed in the last four years!

When you are looking at colleges, keep in mind that transferring is a very real possibility. You should look at majors offered, as they are an ingredient in making your ideal college decision. But, don't let this one factor make your decision for you.

My advice: Leave yourself room to grow. Choose a college that fits your study habits (O.C.D. studying machine or "slow and steady wins the race") and take as many general education credits as possible in your first two years. You know you are going to need a few history credits, a certain level of college math, a life science, English, etc. Get those out of the way first! Leave yourself breathing room to finish the race to graduation studying exactly what you want, where you want.

For more must-knows, check out the entire Tip Off archive.

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Mia-Sarah Abdullah, a commentator on Youth Radio, always planned to go to New York University, an expensive and prestigious private school. But after her mom was let go from bank giant Citigroup, Mia-Sarah realized that a private school education for her and her sisters, even with loans, was out of the question. Now she is considering more reasonably priced state schools. As America's troubled economy makes it harder to find a good job, many high school graduates find themselves in Mia-Sarah's shoes and are delaying entrance into the highly competitive job market or changing their college plans altogether.

One increasingly attractive option is enrolling in community colleges, such as those by the City University of New York (CUNY), which have seen a record number of applicants this year. Besides being safe havens for graduates who can't find jobs right after high school, community colleges also offer affordable tuition and vocational education for in-demand fields, such as nursing. If you've always dismissed community college as an option for you but are increasingly concerned about the difficult job market or the cost of four-year schools, consider its benefits:

Career-Specific Training

Community colleges offer two-year associates degrees, often in a career-specific field, such as criminal justice. These schools are excellent for students who want training in a particular area and don't want to waste time and money taking courses that aren't a part of their career path. Community college is also becoming increasingly popular with people who have lost their jobs and want to learn more marketable skills. For example, when Mia-Sarah's mother lost her banking job, she began attending community college to learn new skills.

Alternative Path to Four-Year Schools

Community colleges are less academically challenging than traditional schools, making them a potential alternative for people who were never strong students but seek some sort of higher education to give their resumes an edge. Additionally, community colleges are often a starting place for students who don't get into their choice universities right away or aren't completely ready for college right out of high school. Many basic credits earned at community colleges transfer to four-year colleges and universities, so you can start at a community college and then go to a four-year school once you have earned the grades or feel ready for a different setting.

Affordable Tuition

Community colleges are also a much less expensive option than traditional four-year colleges. During the current "credit crunch," student loans are harder to obtain, and overall, money is tighter. A community college is a much more affordable alternative for students who are having trouble getting loans or who don't want to leave school with crippling debt.

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Don Munce