Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to Avoid Scholarship Scams

How do you know what scholarships are legitimate and what scholarships are scams? If they sound too good to be true, they usually are; learn how to recognize and protect yourself from the most common scams. If a scholarship has an application fee or other required fees, it isn't worth your time and money to apply. Best bet – don’t pay for any scholarship information. Scholarship information is free and available to everyone.

Here’s one really easy way to check the scholarship or grant to see if it is legitimate:Google it; use a search engine of your choice, and look up the scholarship name or URL, plus the word scam. You might find out it is listed as a scam; or you might get a lot of results and discussion that question whether a scholarship is a scam or not - so it’s probably best to skip over applying for it and move on to the next scholarship opportunity.

The Federal Trade Commission in the US cautions students to look for these tell-tale lines:
  • "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
  • "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
  • "We'll do all the work."
  • "The scholarship will cost some money."
  • "You've been selected by a 'national foundation' to receive a scholarship" or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.

Other Tips for Avoiding Scholarship Scams:

  • Don't believe a promise of guaranteed scholarships. No one can guarantee that you will win a scholarship or grant.
  • You shouldn’t pay money to be matched with scholarships that suit you the best. Anyone can find out information about any scholarship by searching the Internet. Don’t pay anyone to do this for you.
  • Beware scholarship services that charge fees or claim that you can't get this information anywhere else. There are many free lists of scholarships available. Check with your school, library and trusted online scholarship sites before you decide to pay someone to do the work you can do yourself.
  • Don't pay an advance fee. Don't pay anyone who claims to be "holding" a scholarship for you or informs you the scholarship will cost some money. Free money shouldn't cost a thing. Ignore any news that you're a finalist in any contest that requires you to pay a fee for further consideration, or taxes on the winning scholarship.
  • Don’t pay to have someone apply for scholarships for you. This just does not work. In order to be eligible for scholarships, you have to submit your own applications and write your own essays. You can’t get around this, even by paying money. Scholarship committees can easily identify “canned” essays and letters.
  • Ignore the myth of unclaimed funds and the companies that advertise huge amounts of unclaimed money.
  • Don't be fooled by official-sounding names and logos. Make sure the foundation, organization or program is legitimate. Remember – just Google it!
  • If you feel as though the scholarship application and accompanying materials were never proofread, that’s a red flag. Multiple spelling and grammatical errors show a lack of professionalism that is essential to a scholarship foundation’s success.
  • If the only address you can find for a scholarship is a P.O. Box address, do not apply! This is definitely a scam as well. Also be wary of residential addresses as the company headquarters. If you can’t find a phone number for the scholarship sponsor, move on to another scholarship opportunity.
  • Do not give out your social security number, credit card, bank or checking account numbers to anyone claiming they need it for you to be eligible for access to "exclusive" scholarship information, or to deposit your winnings. Get information in writing first. It may be a set-up for an unauthorized withdrawal.

Nothing is more effective than your own dedicated work at finding and applying for scholarships and grants! Get the information you need to help you in this process.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Preparing for Scholarships: The All-Important Essay and Possible Interview

Social network profiles. Please know that your social or web profile WILL be investigated as part of the scholarship process; make sure your profile is professional, and a good representation of who you are! Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn – all of your personal branding profiles should be updated and appropriate for your current scholarship, internship, or job activities. If you don’t have, or don’t know the specifics of “personal branding”, read the series of posts in the SIS blog listed in the archives on the right, or search for ‘personal branding’. Remember – you can also use the social networks to find scholarships as well!

The personal statement or essay. The application essay can be just as important as your GPA and extracurricular activities in helping you win a scholarship - probably the most important aspect of winning a merit scholarship. This is where your application needs to stand out! Create an essay outline, and have a ‘basic’ essay written, using all your skills to create a portrait of yourself as a worthy recipient. Then read all information that comes with the scholarship application to determine the criteria for awarding the scholarships; emphasize these points in your essay. Make sure your essay fits the theme, and answers the question concisely. Use very specific examples from your life experience. Be specific, but show passion in your writing! (Word of warning – avoid the sob story; they rarely, if ever, win scholarships. Remember that every applicant has faced difficulties. What's different and individual to you is how you've overcome those obstacles. This is more significant and memorable than merely listing your misfortunes. Scholarship committees are not as interested in problems as they are in solutions.) The judges will be reading essay after essay on the same topic, so make your essay unique and engaging, with positive energy! Read, and reread your essay – refining, simplifying, and polishing. Show that you have thought deeply and broadly about what you have learned in your academic career and what you hope to learn next. Correctness and style are vital, and neatness counts. It’s important to adhere to the length requirements of the essay so you aren’t disqualified. Have someone read your essay, preferably someone with professional experience – a teacher, professor, writing tutors, or visit the college writing center if there is one available. Search the Web for articles on how to write scholarship essays. This is so very important – do your best work!

Interviews. Before you submit your applications, realize that you may need to be interviewed by the scholarship committee at some point in the process. There are academic scholarships or merit scholarships, especially those with high payouts that require a sit-down, face-to-face interview with the finalists in order to determine who is the most deserving of the award. Be prepared! Make sure if you get called in for an interview that you practice your scholarship interview skills and that you are comfortable with the topic of your essay. Review your application and keep a copy for yourself. That way, there are no big surprises when you go into the meeting room. If you need help with interviewing skills, visit the career services office at your university. Above all, be confident, be positive, and be yourself! (And don’t forget to smile!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Textbook Alternatives

Textbooks. Just the word can conjure up pictures of dollar signs added to an already expensive tuition each semester. Now you have alternatives to purchasing new textbooks that can run in the triple digits, and cost over a thousand dollars a year! To check out the increased options and what works best for you, open a tabbed web browser like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari. This will make it easier to keep track of and compare textbook options. You might also use a spreadsheet or a table in a word document to keep track of the list of books you need for each course, along with other needed information, such as the link to the store or website, price, tax, shipping & handling, and the time it takes for shipping the books. (Be aware of shipping & handling costs, as well as shipping time!). Before you start, make sure you know the name, edition, author, and ISBN number of the books you are searching for! It is now required to give students this information in the US. To find this information, check with the campus bookstore (online if they have that option); ask the professor personally or send an email; check syllabi or course websites.

Used Books. Certainly nothing new, but you might find new places to purchase them.

  • Students. Ask students who took the course last semester – quite often they ask the professor if the same book will be used again the following semester, and have one for sale. Also check to see if your campus has a student-run textbook selling system in place, such as a website or bulletin board.
  • Websites. or eBay is a good place to purchase used books. You can also use Google or Bing to search for books by typing in the name of the book and edition, and see what other options come up. (Make sure you don’t purchase the “international” edition!
  • Book companies and vendors. There are companies that buy and sell used textbooks, and sometimes you’ll find good deals there. A few to try:; CampusBooks,com;;;; … do a search and you’ll find many more. Keep in mind that book companies also buy back used textbooks, often paying for shipping, at prices better than the local campus bookstore can offer.
  • Another way to save money on textbooks is to use a price comparison service such as
  • If your books just aren’t worth selling back, consider donating them to organizations such as Books for Africa. Better yet, hold a book drive on your campus to send used books and funds to people who need them (Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, Invisible Children, and more) – check out Better World Books;; and other book companies for more information. Not only will the textbooks go to a good cause, they will not end up in a landfill. AND – you can earn money for your campus organization! (Win-Win!!)

E-Books. Again, this is not exactly new, but there are new players and better options. Many of the book publishers have online versions of the textbooks they sell – at a reduced price; so check out the book publisher’s website for details. There are a number of sites that offer the classic texts, novels, and books free:

do a search for “free eBooks” and you will find others as well.

A number of vendors have great new devices available called e-readers. They are small, slim (sometimes 3G wireless) reading devices that let you download ebooks in 60 seconds! No monthly fees, no service plans, no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots. (I have a Kindle, and that means reading my web email, posting to Twitter, catching up on Facebook, and surfing the Web in the car!! And, of course, reading books!) Check them out.

If you’ve never read an eBook – download a free one today and check out the tools available. You can highlight, take clippings, bookmark, and (what I like best) SEARCH! When you study, wouldn’t it be great to search your textbook like you search websites for specific terms?

Be sure to check out the eBook vendors carefully – some eBooks are only available for a specific period of time; some are only accessible on the computer you use to download the book; as well as other limitations.

Renting/Lending Textbooks. Now this is an old idea with a new twist! There are now a large number of universities, book companies, and publishing companies that have textbook rental options. The prices are usually much cheaper than the new retail price of the book. Check with your university bookstore to see if they are planning a rental option for students; some are working directly with book publishers and vendors. If not, there are websites that have online textbook rental options for students, although shipping & handling, along with shipping times, might make this a less desirable option than renting through a university program. There is a company, called Cengage Learning that makes the first couple of chapters of the rented text available online to students, so last-minute ordering isn’t such a problem. They also announced that they would start renting books to students this year, at 40 percent to 70 percent of the sale price. They also give you the option of renting selected chapters of books!

There are now a number of Internet textbook-rental companies, here’s two to get you started looking for the best deals:, and Chegg ( that billed itself as “the Netflix for college textbooks.” Both advertise books at 65 – 85% off the regular price of textbooks. This is another option definitely worth looking into!

But don’t delay – order your textbooks as soon as possible so you have them in time for classes! (Ok – that’s the professor in me speaking!) Good luck with your textbook search, and good luck in your courses this semester!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pacific University, Oregon, offers Scholarships to International Students - Up to $9,000 Per Year

Pacific University is one of the best traditional universities in America. according to US News & World Report. Pacific University is in the top 13% of the 1400 American universities included in this category. Pacific can give you "Conditional Admission" if you meet the academic requirements of the university, but don't have enough English yet. They offer small classes with over 50 areas of study and several powerful ESL programs. Average university academic class size is 19 and average ESL class size is 12.

Pacific is a private university offering large scholarships for international students. After scholarships, the tuition cost is about the same as a public university. This means you can get a high-quality private university education at about the same cost of a public university. Their Career Center can help you find internshiips before graduation and full-time paying jobs after graduation (limited to 1 year by US immigration). You can apply for part-time jobs on campus. This will help you save a little money. It will also help you improve your English and meet people. (They cannot guarantee you a job, but they can help you apply.)

You can begin taking classes for university credit, together with ESL classes, with only iBT 53 (475 TOEFL or 5.0 IELTS). This is through our ELI Transition program. Pacific has a very strong ESL program, started in 1982, to help you reach our TOEFL requirement quickly.

There is a strong feeling of community at Pacific. They have many programs to help you get connected to other students, get connected to your professors and get connected to the community.

*Undergraduate Scholarships*
Pacific offers automatic scholarships to all international undergraduate students based on your high school or college scores at the time of admission.

The scholarship ranges from US$ 6,000 to US$ 9,000 per year.

Your scholarship award is per year for four years. You do not need to apply separately for these scholarships. They are automatically awarded to all admitted students. They will show the scholarship amount on your acceptance letter and I-20. While studying at Pacific, you must have a Pacific GPA of at least 2.0 (average score) to keep your scholarship. These scholarships are only for undergraduate students (both Freshman and Transfer Students). They do not apply to graduate level students.

Contact Pacific at

John Harn
International Admissions
Visit their International Admission Website