Sunday, May 24, 2009

Write an Essay, Win Money for College

FIRE’s “Freedom in Academia” Essay Contest

U.S. high school seniors are invited to watch two short videos about real students who were censored and punished for speech that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Then, "in 700-1200 words, please discuss the videos you have seen and explain how these universities betrayed the purpose of a university and violated the constitutional guarantees of free expression. Focus on why such codes and practices are incompatible with higher education and why free speech is important in our nation's colleges and universities." Visit the contest link for more information and details.
Deadline: November 6, 2009
Prize: $5,000

First Freedom Student Competition

U.S. high school students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit essays examining religious freedom and its relevance in their lives. This year's topic: "Why should international religious freedom matter to you as a young American? Is the United States commitment to monitor and advance religious freedom consistent with American legal and political history? Why should it be United States policy to advance this international human right? How does this responsibility lie 'in your hands' for you both as an individual and as a member of a community?" Visit the contest link for more information and details.
Deadlines: Register online by November 23, 2009. Submit your essay by November 28, 2009.
Prize: $3,000

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Parsing a Prompt

Having a hard time starting that paper? You're not alone. Many students have difficulty beginning an assignment, often because they do not fully understand what they are expected to accomplish. Here's how to figure it out:

1. Your instructor has probably given you an assignment sheet - a prompt - that describes what you are supposed to do. If you don't remember receiving this, look for a description of the assignment in your syllabus, or ask your teacher, professor, or TA if such a document is available. Assignment prompts provide detailed instructions about the requirements. Sometimes these prompts also include a grading rubric with specific information about how your paper will be evaluated.

2. Once you have a copy of the prompt, read it carefully. Ideally, read it through more than once!

3. Next, analyze the assignment prompt by asking yourself questions such as:
  • What is the purpose? (What am I supposed to learn or accomplish in writing this piece?)
  • What are the stated substantive requirements?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How does the context influence the assignment? (How does this assignment connect to course content? How does it fit into my professional training in this discipline?)
  • What is the scope of the assignment? (How many sources? How many examples? How broad or specific should my topic or argument be?)
  • What style is appropriate? (Formal? Informal? What discipline-specific style conventions am I expected to observe?)
  • What format is expected? (Citation format, length, margins, headers, etc.)
If you can answer these questions, you'll have a much stronger sense of how to approach your paper.

4. If you are uncertain about any of the requirements, ask your instructor for clarification. Once you know exactly what you are expected to do, you will be able to meet the objectives of your assignment more effectively, efficiently, and confidently.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How to Wait for SAT Scores

After months of preparation and perspiration, your SAT test date looms large. And then suddenly, it’s passed. But now what? The test is over, it’s out of your hands, but you still lack that all-important nugget of information: THE SCORE. At least two and half weeks will elapse between the test date and when scores are posted to the web. Though this period might feel like an eternity, it does not need to be excruciating! Here are a few tips for teens and their parents trying to weather this potentially stressful period.

For teens:
  • Manage your stress levels in all of the usual ways: get enough rest, eat nutritious foods, exercise, stretch, meditate.
  • Go easy on yourself, for at least a couple of days. Allow yourself to veg out and recover. Play some video games, hang out with your friends, get a pedicure, take a nap.
  • Reward yourself for getting through the test, no matter what your score.
  • Keep the test in perspective. Your score does not determine your value as a person. Though important, it is just a number. Colleges see you as more than just your SAT score. And, of course, so do your friends and family.
  • Focus on other ways to strengthen your college applications: work on your essays, keep up with your courses, and stay involved in your extra-curricular activities.
For parents:
  • Don’t hover, don’t hassle, don’t count down the days. Your teen is probably fixated on waiting for the score report. Don’t encourage this! No need to add your own anxiety to the mix.
  • Instead, encourage your teen to unwind.
  • Plan something simple, fun, and relaxing to celebrate that the test date is now behind you. Suggest an activity you both enjoy, prepare your kid’s favorite dessert, or take the family out to the movies.
  • Remind your child that he or she has already made it through the toughest parts—studying for and actually taking the test!
  • Most importantly, in subtle and unassuming ways, make sure your kid knows that self-worth and SAT scores are not related in any way whatsoever. No matter what, you love your child and are very proud of him or her.

Note: This piece originally appeared as a guest post I wrote for Vanessa Van Petten's website

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cool Scholarship Opportunities

Krylon Clear Choice Art Scholarship

High school seniors, college freshmen, and college sophomores majoring in a visual arts program such as painting, drawing or sketching (excluding graphic design, interior design, film, music or the performing arts) are invited to submit portfolios of 3-6 high resolution images of their art work. An artist's statement, letter of recommendation, and transcript are also required to apply.

Deadline: May 31, 2009
Prize: $1000 + gift package of Krylon sprays and adhesives
Rules & Application Form:

National Sculpture Society Scholarship

Scholarships are awarded for figurative or representational works of sculpture. Students must submit images of their sculptures on a CD. Applicants must also submit letters of recommendation and proof of financial need. Complete rules and additional details are available at the NSS website.

Deadline: June 1, 2009
Prize: $2,000

Swakhamer Video Contest for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

President Obama has stated, “This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.” How can we achieve a world free of nuclear weapons by the year 2020? Once this is achieved, how can we make sure that the “nuclear genie” stays in the bottle forever? Make a video of 3 minutes or less addressing these questions.

Deadline: June 15, 2009
Prize: $1000

Voice of Democracy Audio Essay Contest

The Voice of Democracy National Audio Essay Contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12. You must write and record an essay of between three and five minutes. The theme of your essay must be "Does America still have Heroes?"

Deadline: November 1, 2009
Prize: $30,000