Rust, Germany - July 12, 2011: Visitors of the Europa - Park theme park enjoying their ride on the Euro - Mir rollercoaster. The Europa - Park is the largest seasonal theme park in the world and is situated near the borders of Germany, France and Switzerland.

Electrical engineers play a key role in designing and building all the familiar tools and appliances that have become necessities in our everyday lives. Whenever you are on your cell phone, computer, television or even drive a car, there is an electrical engineer who made it all possible. While electrical engineers design fun things like Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure or the exciting 3D motion picture technology that has given movies a whole new perspective, they’re also at the forefront of improving essential technologies and developing new ones. Electrical engineers are behind the scenes with everything from medical devices and solar energy to robotics.

Electrical engineers deal with the largest projects imaginable such as our nation’s electrical power grid with its power plants, transformers, and more than 450,000 miles of transmission lines to the smallest life-saving devices. Take an airbag sensor. This device, smaller than a millimeter, determines whether to deploy airbags and activate seat belt locks and automatic door locks based on how many people there are in a vehicle, wheel speed, impact, and brake pressure. The work and potential areas of an electrical engineer has no limits and will continue to expand as we harness new technologies including self-driving cars and trucks, face-detecting payment systems (no more lost credit cards!), and practical quantum computers. If you’ve always been fascinated by robotics, computer networks, wireless communications, or life-saving medical devices, you should not be “shocked” to learn that majoring in electrical engineering or electronic engineering is a great career choice.

Electrical engineering programs include a strong foundation in mathematics and the sciences, especially physics, and courses from other disciplines, such as computer science, mechanical engineering, and materials science.  In addition to courses in circuits, electronics, digital design and microprocessors,  EE majors take advanced courses in design theory and methodology and in specialized areas such as communications systems, optical systems or medical instrumentation. All of these courses have heavy hands-on laboratory components.   

Upon graduation, EE majors are qualified for entry level positions as electrical engineers. After several years of experience, they may apply for licensure as a professional engineer.  Electrical engineers work in a wide range of industries, including the aerospace, biomedical, automotive, semiconductor and computer industries. Job and salary prospects are strong.  According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organization, the the median starting salary for new electrical engineering grads was just over $60,000 a year. Considering the job market for college graduates in recent years, electrical engineers are among the most well positioned of any new graduates for job prospects and hefty starting salaries. Of course, salary ranges vary based upon the size of the company and the industry.

Istanbul, Turkey - January 13, 2016: Person holding a brand new Apple iPhone 6s with Facebook profile on the screen. Facebook is a social media online service for microblogging and networking, founded in February 4, 2004.

Social media can create a permanent record of inappropriate conduct or language that can haunt you going forward. Many adults have lost their jobs over inappropriate postings and stories abound of students and even teachers sharing inappropriate items on social media. You probably are aware of some from your own school. One would hope students who are applying to colleges would know better before hitting “post.” Of course, most high school students are very responsible about their social media presence, and we only hear about the ones whose lapse in judgement live on as lessons for others.

Do college admissions offices actually take the time to seek out information on prospective applicants in social media? According to Kaplan Test Prep, yes! A  survey of nearly 400 admissions officers found that “the percentage of admission officers who visit applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them has hit a record high of 40% — quadruple the percentage who did so in 2008,” when Kaplan first explored this issue. Googling an applicant to learn more about them has remained relatively stable over the past two years, at 29%.

What triggers admission officers to look beyond the traditional “Big Three” elements of a college application — GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars — and turn to Google, Facebook, and other sites for additional information?

Some contributing factors are positive:

  • Special talents: Students who are musicians, writers, models or poets will often invite admission officers to view their social media presence in their applications.
  • Award verification: There is no formal “fact-checking” process when students submit their applications. Colleges generally take at face-value whatever honors students list and the time commitments and leadership roles students state in their extracurricular activities and work experiences. However, a mention of a particularly distinguished award will sometimes trigger a search.
  • Scholarship applications: Students applying for special scholarships can come under greater scrutiny, as schools want to ensure those receiving the scholarships are fully deserving. Extra due diligence can come in the form of online checking.

However, admissions officers may be looking for negatives as well.

  • Verification of “Blemishes:” If an applicant mentions he or she has a criminal background or a record of disciplinary action, an admissions office may do some online digging to get more details.
  • Admissions Sabotage: Occasionally, college admissions officers are anonymously alerted to inappropriate social media postings. Admission officers will typically follow-up to verify any accusations. Inappropriate social media use can easily sink an otherwise stellar application.

The take-away for high school students is simple:

  • Scrub your current social media profile and make it squeaky clean before you begin the application process.
  • Think before you post! Ask yourself if this is something you would want an admission officer, an employer, or your parents to see.

Rejected college application on a desktop.  Artwork created by the photographer.

Denials are inevitable in an atmosphere of  increasingly selective admissions. Harvard University recently selected only 5.4% of its applicants, and Stanford University only 4.8%. Suffice it to say, for the most competitive schools, there are far more rejection letters than acceptances. Nevertheless rejection letters are a bitter pill to swallow, especially for top students accustomed to ongoing accolades and affirmations by their teachers and peers.

College admissions is perhaps the first time that you dip your toe into the experiences of adulthood and realize that not everything goes your way all the time. Life is about stumbling blocks, being flexible, and not attaching to any specific outcome. Life is about understanding that there are multiple paths to achieving your goals, and if one of them closes, you just open another. The most important attribute one can have to achieve success is persistence and the ability to overcome setbacks.

First, it helps to peel back the emotions and understand why rejection letters are emotionally difficult to handle. Students are hurt by rejection letters not only because of their own emotions, but because of their perception of how those around them will view the rejection. Students can feel overwhelming pressure from their classmates, especially as others come in with new bragging rights about what schools they were admitted to. Students may also feel that they somehow disappointed their parents. It’s all petty nonsense!

Advice in these kinds of situations always sounds so cliché, but it’s the truth: Don’t take any rejection personally. The college admissions process is an imperfect process at best and most of the variables beyond your control. A rejection letter is NOT the equivalent of “failure,” and it’s not by a long-shot. Colleges act in their own self-interest. And being fair to you is not on their list. They are committed to fulfilling their institutional priorities by accepting students who are often underrepresented. They want a diverse entering class — students from different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and even geography. If you are a caucasian male from an upper middle class background in suburban New Jersey with good grades, good SAT scores, and impressive extracurriculars, guess what? You are not alone. There’s a whole bunch of students just like you vying for those limited slots. Unfortunately, if you are a classic “over-represented” student, you are stuck with your demographics like a bad tattoo.

With college admissions, all you can do is put your best food forward. If you “left it all on the field,” be proud of yourself for giving it your best. You will have many successes in your life. It simply isn’t realistic to expect that there will be no setbacks as well. Also, understand the big picture. In the totality of your life, where you go to school is just one chapter in your life’s journey. More important, it’s up to you to make your college experience the best no matter where you wind up. It may seem that your “dream” college meant everything. In truth, it’s just a blip on the radar screen. You’ll have have your career that will span decades, your future family, and plenty of opportunities to find your niche and make the world a better place. Thousands of students who were rejected from Stanford or the Ivys went on to do great things with their lives — and you will too!

You are not the only one who received a rejection letter from your so-called “dream” school. There are lots of other students in the same boat. Reach out to friends. Commiserate together and then move on together. You’ll all appreciate the support. Don’t get caught up with the prestige factor. It’s important to recognize that a brand name doesn’t equal success or,  more importantly, doesn’t equal happiness. Your performance during your undergraduate experience will be the biggest factor that determines your job placement opportunities, not where you went to school.

Obsessing about rejections is the ultimate in wasted energy. Instead, channel it constructively. Use your time and energy to identify other schools that you will like as much or even more. Sometimes rejections will send a student to a different school, down a different path, and open up unexpected opportunities. Some students thought they want a big school, and realize they’ll have more opportunity to shine at a smaller school. Be positive about other institutions and celebrate your acceptances!

Handling a college rejection constructively will give you a small taste of how to deal with future obstacles, and believe me, as an adult, obstacles will be coming at you fast and furious! College rejection happens to everyone. You decide how these rejections will affect you. Don’t blow it out of proportion. Instead, use these rejections as an opportunity to show your strength in rebounding from adversity. YOU control your own happiness — not Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Tell whatever college that sent you a rejection letter to go take a hike! You don’t need them. Instead, make a new and better path for your success.

Woman in laboratory, examining new potions for the scientific research at university. Woman is wearing protective mask and protective gloves (Surgical gloves) while working with beakers, test tubes and other lab equipment. Series of images, taken with Nikon D800 and 50mm or 85 mm professional lens, developed from RAW.

Molecular biology, the study of biology at the molecular level, is a challenging branch of science focuses on the structure and function of the molecules that form the basis of life. Pretty heady stuff! What do molecular biologists do? They explore cells, their characteristics and parts, chemical processes, and how molecules control cellular activity and growth. They frequently focus on certain types of molecules or work to define the biological processes that cause genetic defects.

Majoring in this field prepares students for a wide range of careers in scientific research, medicine, bioengineering, and biotechnology. You’ll find molecular biologists in government agencies such as the EPA, the NIH, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that need scientists for a variety of important research functions. In the private sector, molecular biologists are needed in field of biotechnology to improve therapies, vaccines, drugs, and medical diagnostic testing. They assist in the design of environmental biotechnological products, which are used to clean up hazardous waste. In agriculture, molecular biologists work to create disease-resistant genetically-engineered crops. In the pharmaceutical industry, jobs are available in the design and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines. There are countless other employment options, including writing and reporting on scientific policy, biological and medical illustration, and forensic science. In education, majoring in molecular biology is great preparation to become a high school chemistry or biology teacher. With a doctoral degree, molecular biologists can teach at the university level while performing cutting-edge research.

Some college programs focus on preparing students for medical school while others prepare students for careers in the biotechnology industry. Choose a college consistent with your career plans. To enhance job prospects, look for colleges that offer “certificate programs” for specialized lab techniques, such as cell culture and DNA sequencing and synthesis for added research experience. For more information, visit the website of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This organization publishes scientific journals and supports research funding and education. Another helpful site is, the Cell and Molecular Biology Online Informational Resource.

Human hand writing TIME TO DECiDE on whiteboard

A year ago, in March 2016, the College Board debuted its revamped, or as they prefer to call it “redesigned” SAT. Many experts believe that the impetus behind the redesign was to keep it more competitive with the ACT, which has been gaining traction in recent years as the preferred college readiness test among high school students. The ACT was seen as the fairer test, more closely based on what students should be learning in high school while the SAT was criticized for its trick math questions, its confusing structure, and its obscure vocabulary. The College Board responded to these complaints with a new and improved SAT.

Now, students are asking which test should they be taking as part of their college application — the new SAT or the ACT?  Keep in mind that the new SAT returned to its original 400-1600 scaled score, so a perfect 1600 on the new SAT is the equivalent of a perfect 36 on the ACT.  While experts say that the new SAT is more straightforward and more similar to the ACT in format and subject matter, there are still some important differences to consider before making your decision.

In addition to the returning to its original 400 -1600 point scale, the new SAT is like the ACT in two major respects. First, there is no longer a wrong answer penalty, so intelligent guessing is encouraged. Second, the SAT essay portion is now optional. The does not have a separately designated Science section, but science/graph analysis questions appear in the math and reading sections of the exam.

Here is a brief comparison of the SAT and ACT by section:

Reading Sections. The new SAT Reading section consists of only one long section of 52 questions with an allotted time of 65 minutes. This section includes only longer passages and no longer contains sentence completions (SAT analogy questions had already been eliminated years ago), making it more similar to ACT Reading. Unlike the ACT, its questions follow the same order as information in the paragraph. The ACT reading section is much shorter. The student is given 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. The ACT focuses more on reading comprehension, while the new SAT focuses on analyzing specific concepts and understanding how the authors construct their arguments.

Writing Sections. The new SAT Writing section utilizes the same passage-based format as the ACT English section, and now includes more grammatical concepts ,including punctuation, that was not tested before the redesign. Although both tests give roughly the same amount of time, the ACT asks almost twice as many questions.  For SAT Writing, students are asked to answer  44 questions in 35 minutes while ACT English expects 75 questions to be answered in 45 minutes.

Math Sections. The new SAT Math section has been redesigned to be more straightforward and focus on the math that students are taking high school instead of quirky, tricky questions that often had a “backdoor” solution. The new SAT has a heavy emphasis on algebra and data analysis.  The ACT Math section includes far more geometry and trigonometry, and, unlike the SAT, does not provide a table of formulas. The new SAT allows more time for the Math section, but the questions are more challenging, and includes both calculator and no-calculator allowed portions. The new SAT Math portion consists of 20 no-calculator questions in 25 minutes and 38 calculator-allowed questions in 55 minutes. The ACT Math portion is one section containing 60 questions to be completed in 60 minutes, and allows the use of a calculator throughout the section, which may favor those students who are calculator-dependent. The ACT Math section is all multiple choice while the new SAT still retains some “grid-in” format questions, 13 of them, to be exact, and they all appear at the end of the two sections (4 in the no calculator section and 8 in the calculator allowed section).

Essay sections. The new SAT and the ACT are similar.  They are both given about the same amount of time. To answer one prompt, the new SAT allows 50 minutes while the ACT allows 40 minutes. The essays are both optional, so the decision to take the essay depends of the admission requirements of the colleges to which you are applying. In the new SAT, you’ll be asked to evaluate an argument, and according to the College Board,  “you can count on seeing the same prompt no matter when you take the new SAT with Essay, but the passage will be different every time.”  On the ACT, you must come up with your own argument and support it.

So, those are the key differences, but which test should you take?

Sorry, it’s not that easy! The question is not which is the better test because both of them have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the student. The real issue is is best for YOU. The better test is the one most aligned to the testing style your prefer, the types of questions, in short, the better test is the one that gives you the strongest competitive edge in the Admissions Office by maximizing your strengths and presenting you in the most favorable light.

Here are some things you should consider:

Factors that favor the SAT:

  • It is still a critical thinking test, emphasizes creative thinking over memorizing content.
  • Many students consider it to be the “easier” of the two once you factor in the scaled score (both tests are graded on a curve).
  • If you are a slower test-taker, the new SAT may be a better option, as it is far less time intensive and allows more time per problem.

Factors that favor the ACT:

  • If you are able to stay focused for longer periods of time and work at a fast pace, the ACT might be your best bet. 
  • There is currently much more practice material available for the ACT, and its content is presented in a consistent manner.

To decide which test to take, obtain a copy of both exams. Examine the rules, format, and questions in depth.  Often, one testing style will resonate with you over the other. Once you have decided which test would be a better fit, start preparing as early as possible for the exam. There is one steadfast rule that applies equally to both tests: Focused, productive preparation is necessary for you to maximize your score.

Black dog having a medical examination at veterinarian office.

Animal science is a broad field. Students majoring in animal science study everything you can think of about animals — their biology, physiology, growth, breeding, nutrition, behavior, and management. According to the American Society of Animal Science, there are over 500 different job classifications for animal science graduates.

What can you do as an animal science major? Plenty!

Veterinary medicine is a popular career path, but it’s a long, challenging process. There are only 30 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States, so earning a coveted seat at a veterinary college is a major achievement. Veterinarians do far more than treat dogs and cats. Large animal vets work out of their pick-up truck, traveling to farms to treat horses and livestock. You’ll also find vets working for companies that that make animal foods and pharmaceuticals.

Animal science majors are needed for many government positions. Federal and State departments of Agriculture, Health, Environmental Protection, and Food and Drug Safety all employ animals science graduates. Animal science majors are needed for work in laboratories for all types of animal-related research, and for those who are more hands-on, you can inspect livestock operations, and meat and dairy plants to ensure that these facilities are operating safely and treating their animals humanely.

Positions in education are also plentiful for animal science majors.  They work in high schools as science teachers and in college university extension programs, disseminating important information to area farmers and the public.

In the private sector, animal science majors are employed by farms, ranches, and agricultural businesses as managers and technicians. if you want to live out in rural country and away from the hustle-bustle of city life, these jobs may be just the ticket.

As the world loses more species, wildlife conservation is critical.  Animal science majors can continue with their studies to become zoologists, wildlife biologists, and conservation officers and be on the front line protecting and supporting endangered wild animals.

If you have a passion for learning about and caring for animals, an animal science major may be ideal for you. More information can be found at the website for the American Society of Animal Science.

  • Zookeeper (requires advanced degree)
  • Veterinarian (with advanced degree)
  • Animal Scientist
  • Animal Breeding Technician
  • Animal Caretaker
  • Research/Laboratory Technician
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Habitat Specialist
  • Livestock Manager
  • Kennel Keeper
  • Livestock Inspector
  • Wildlife Biologist
  • Zoologist (requires advanced degree)
  • Quality Control Manager
  • Animal Nutritionist
  • Animal Researcher
  • Conservation Officer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Livestock Marketing Specialist

Student taking standardized test.

Recently, the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Subject Tests, and the AP exams as well as its competitor, ACT, Inc., which administers the test bearing the same name, announced major changes to their testing accommodations policy for those students with documented disabilities. A variety of testing accommodations are offered to eligible students depending on their disability. There are a wide range of disabilities that can be accommodated from ADHD to visual impairments. Time accommodations include extended time, extra breaks, and extended breaks. There are also numerous writing, reading, and seeing accommodations, such as the use of a typewriter for the essay portion of the test or use of large-type test booklets. In the past, students seeking eligibility for testing accommodations had to pass through a number of “hoops” based on the individual requirements of the College Board or ACT. Now, the process has been significantly streamlined.

College Board/SAT

Beginning January 1, 2017, there is now a simplified request process for submitting a testing accommodations request. This process builds on the College Board’s earlier August expansion that allowed schools to directly approve testing accommodations for students currently receive accommodations through either an IEP or a 504 Plan (for public school students) or through other plans sanctioned by private schools without the need for additional documentation. Under the new policy, if the school testing coordinators can affirmatively answer “yes” to two simple questions, the eligible student can be approved to receive most testing accommodations on any of the College Board exams. These two questions are: (1) Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan? and (2) Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?

Also, in the past, the SAT was offered only in the English language, and limited English proficiency was not treated as a condition for an accommodation for support in one’s native language. Effective January 1, 2017, English Language Learners (ELL) who take a state-funded SAT during the school day will now have ELL testing supports, including access to testing instructions in several native languages and approved bilingual glossaries. In the fall of 2017, ELL students can also receive extended testing time and the opportunity to test in an environment with reduced distractions. This change by the College Board matches the ACT policy in providing support for students enrolled in an English Learners Program.


The ACT, Inc. announced that it was aligning its policy with that of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and approving accommodations for students currently receiving them at their home schools. Candidly, applying for accommodations for the ACT is still more of a hassle than applying for College Board accommodations. But if you want to take the ACT and feel that exam is more suited toward your strengths, it’s well worth it!

To be eligible for ACT accommodations: the disability must be diagnosed and documented by a credentialed professional; the disability must impact performance on the ACT; and the student must receive and use similar accommodations at school.  Students submit required documents along with a request for either National Extended Time (for students seeking extended time (50% time extension) to complete the exam) or National Standard Time with Accommodations (for students require a variety of other accommodations). Detailed instructions for applying for accommodations on the ACT (called “Special Testing” on the ACT) can be found in a 7-page pdf. The request form must be completed by the school’s special testing coordinator, and signed by the school official, the test coordinator, the examinee, and the parent. In addition, the ACT announced that students in a designated English Learners Program could apply through their high school counselor to automatically receive testing support for the ACT starting in the fall of 2107.  The ACT will be offering the same English Learner Supports as the College Board.

***NOTE TO INSPECTOR: All models in this image have signed model releases. Some models have been duplicated more than once.***

Generally, those universities with more than 15,000 undergraduates are considered to be large enrollment universities. Student populations among universities vary greatly. Many schools, including Texas A&M, Ohio State, and have an undergraduate enrollment in excess of 40,000 students. In our own backyard, Rutgers has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 35,000, far more than most towns in Monmouth County.

There are many factors to consider when applying to college, and the size of the school should certainly be one of them. What are some benefits of attending of these schools crawling with tens of thousands of students?

  • Larger schools are often state-funded, so they can come with a much lower price tag than a small, private school.
  • These schools are frequently found in more urban areas or suburban “college towns” that revolve around the university. As a result, housing and transportation costs are usually cheaper, and it’s not necessary to own a car in order to live. These schools generally offer more on or near campus housing options than a smaller, so it may be easier to find a nice budget-friendly place to live.
  • Do you want to major in something more specialized than Biology or English like Speech and Language Disorders? Big schools offer more degrees and a far wider variety of classes in which to choose. This virtually unlimited buffet of courses can be helpful for those who are still undecided in their major. Students in large schools have the opportunity to try out many different courses to find out what “clicks” for them.  All of these specialized departments have their own offices on campus to help students, and many have graduate assistants available for tutoring.
  • Since many classes are offered at at different times throughout the day, and even night, students at big schools  have more scheduling flexibility, making it easier to hold down part-time work.
  • Many entry level courses in large schools are held in  lecture halls, so those who like their anonymity and not comfortable with small discussion classes may enjoy “watching the show” at large colleges, who often have entertaining professors to keep an auditorium of students engaged.   
  • A more sizable undergraduate population also creates a bigger alumni network.  This translates into more funding, which may be used to build state-of-the-art facilities or a good endowment for scholarships.
  • Since large schools are frequently focused on research, they attract excellent teachers who are widely recognized in their field. This translates into more opportunities to work in research alongside high profile faculty.
  • Big universities simply have more: more libraries, more gyms, and multiple dining halls with different meal options. And when you are not studying there are more restaurants and other businesses catering to all of these students.
  • Large universities tend to have a more diverse student body, more clubs, and more extracurricular activities. With so many options, it may be easier to find a group to join, and meeting new people all the time is inevitable.
  • Sports fans may feel more at home in this setting, as bigger schools have more of an emphasis on games, rivalries, and school spirit.  For those interested in fraternities and sororities, there is often a stronger focus on Greek life on large campuses.

Any downsides to attending one of these big mega-schools?

  • It’s easier to get lost in the crowd on a big campus, so students need to be able to speak up for their needs and interests, and go after the opportunities they desire, and have the patience to deal with an administration responsible for servicing thousands of students just like you.
  • Since there can sometimes be less interaction with professors, smaller schools may be better for students who need extra help or motivation to learn.
  • Smaller schools offer more opportunities for leadership roles because there is less competition for them.
  • Smaller schools have a better faculty to student ratio and proportionally more administrative staff,so there is more individualized advising should you need some guidance or other assistance.

If you are a self-motivated learner who enjoys meeting new people and have a variety of new experiences, a large university may be just right for you.

Four creative people on a meeting at the office.

Skilled communicators are a valuable commodity. After all, communications is the essence of what we do as people and is the core skill of most any job — effectively communicating information. Communications majors learn how to plan and execute events and projects with attention to detail and organization — a vital skill for any professional tasked with representing a company in the best possible way. In business, those with strong writing and oral communication skills are always needed. Communications majors offer students all that, and more.

Communications graduates can find exciting, world-traveling jobs in TV, film production, and journalism.  Communications majors are also needed for web design, social media, online publishing, and video production. As technology continues to evolve with new and exciting channels of communication, the need for communication experts for these specialized areas are expected to skyrocket.

The need for communications majors doesn’t end there. Advertising, marketing, and public relations all need communications experts. Human Resource departments rely on communications specialists to assist in recruiting, training, and retaining strong employees.  Many communications majors enter graduate programs to obtain even more specialized, marketable skills. You’ll find communications majors in law, business, and public policy and administration schools. Also, you may not agree with everything they say, but campaign managers and virtually anyone involved in politics require exceptional communications skills.

In short, majoring in communications is a great fit for students who thrive on conveying information to others in innovative, creative and exciting ways. Whether you you enjoy being in the limelight and speaking in conferences or on TV,  or prefer to work behind-the-scenes in writing persuasive content, communications may be just the ticket for you to achieve your career goals.

Happy young men and women playing with money

If you have registered with a scholarship search engine such as, make sure you have reviewed all the possibilities. Check with your high school’s college counseling office. It can be a wealth of information about scholarships offered by local civic groups and businesses that may not be found online. With local scholarships, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that scholarship amounts are usually much smaller than national scholarships. The good news is that there are fewer students competing for it, and sometimes only a handful. Before you discount a $500 or $1,000 scholarship as not worth the effort, look at the application requirements and look at your opportunity cost (you’ll be learning about that in economics!). If you can complete the application in as little as two or three hours and win the scholarship, that’s the equivalent of earning hundreds of dollars an hour — not too shabby! Piece together several small scholarships and, before you know it, you have a nice contribution toward your college costs that will at least cover the cost of your first semester’s textbooks. And, hey, as I like to say, $500 is a lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

Nowadays, with annual college tuition exceeding $60,000 at many schools, even the most affluent families are grateful for any additional scholarship help.  Although some essay contest committees are need-based when selecting winners, many others look only at the merits of the essay. Writing a dynamite essay can pay off handsomely, and, unless the topic is unusually specific, essays can often be tweaked to fit the requirements of several contests.

Here’s how to minimize your time and maximize your efforts. First,

  1. Accumulate a list of essay contests and make note of the essay required for each, grouping those that address similar topics. Next, pend some time crafting a really good essay, one that knock the socks off your English teacher. You should already know the drill.
  2. Start your essay with a good hook. Your opening sentence has to grab your reader’s attention.
  3. Write descriptively. Paint a scene that places your audience right in the middle. And specifics are far more powerful than boring generalities. Use specific examples and work on those descriptive phrases. 

Good essay writing is about editing and re-editing. Even Shakespeare could not get by on a first draft. Every revision will help your essay shine even more. If you’re motivated by money, think of it this way. These essay contests are a part-time job that can potentially pay you far more than most any hourly wage job available to high schoolers. Winning one essay contest is easily the equivalent of the monthly wage from most part-time jobs.

Here’s a list of essay contests to get you started. You can find more by Googling “scholarship essay contests.”

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead Scholarships

The Jane Austin Society Essay Scholarship

The National Peace Essay Contest  

The American Mensa Educational & Research Foundation Scholarship 

Profile in Courage Essay Contest 

Spirit of Anne Frank

American Foreign Service High School Essay Contest

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