San Jose, California (CNN) - At 17 years old, Jessica Perez is an honor student who aspires to be the first member of her family to graduate from college.
But when it came to the application process, she felt lost, alone and ill-prepared.
"I didn't really know where to start," said Perez, who wants to be an astrophysicist. "There wasn't really anybody at home that could help me figure out how I could reach my dream."
Perez's grandparents, who raise Perez and her two siblings, both work long hours to make ends meet. And neither continued their education beyond elementary school.
Fortunately for Perez, she was directed by her school guidance counselor to a nonprofit called Strive for College.
"It helps students who don't really know anything about the college process," she said. "College students come to you and they tell you how to do it because they've been through it also."
Strive for College pairs high-school students with college students for free, one-on-one consultation over a yearlong period. Each pair works together through the application process for colleges, scholarships and financial aid.
Michael Carter's nonprofit has already helped 600 low-income students enter four-year colleges and universities.
"We take them through every little step of the process, because, frankly, it's a pretty detailed process - and if you miss one step, you could ruin all your chances," said Michael Carter, who founded the nonprofit in 2007 while he was a college freshman.
So far, Strive for College has already helped 600 low-income students across the country enter four-year colleges and universities. And it expects to help an additional 900 this year.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - "America's young people stand last in line for jobs."
That's the warning from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charity that aims to assist underprivileged children in the U.S. The organization recently released a report that says youth employment is at its lowest level since the second World War.
The foundation says that only about half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 had jobs in 2011. And when you look at the numbers for the teenagers in that group, 25% percent of them were employed last year - a significant drop from the year 2000, when 46% of teenagers had jobs.
The lingering effects of the Great Recession are largely to blame here. Entry-level jobs at restaurants and clothing retailers have increasingly gone to more experienced, more qualified workers, according to the study. This has left young people without a paycheck and without the workplace experience that could help them later in their careers.
It also places a burden on taxpayers, as the federal and local governments spend more to support young, unemployed workers.
The foundation lists a number of recommendations for addressing the issue. You can view the full report here.
By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - On a brisk, spring-like day in March, Diana Rivera walked into a classroom at Centinela Valley Adult School, just like she’d done everyday for nearly the past two months. She was eager to hear a lecture in her “medical assistant” class, a course she believed would be key to successfully starting a career in the medical field. Getting there had been a struggle.
“I searched and searched for so long,” she said. “I tried to get in three years ago, but there was a waiting list.”
The medical assistant course was started 12 years ago, and over the years, it grew to become one of the most popular on campus. But on that day, just as Rivera was settling into her coursework, everything changed.
“They just came in, gave us notice that school was over, and took us out," she said.
And just like that, her dreams vanished. The class and its instructor were suddenly eliminated due to cuts in state funding.
“It was devastating,” Rivera said. “I was let down.”
But as she was escorted off campus that morning, what she didn’t know was that her teacher was also about to become her champion.
Educator Cristina Chiappe, who created the course and has taught it since its inception, suddenly found herself unemployed. And while she no longer had a physical location to teach, she never once thought to stop the class.
“I didn’t want to leave my students with nothing. They cut the money back. This is not all about money, it’s about education,” she said.
So Chiappe came up with an idea – one that her students and onlookers have described as “brave”, “risky” and “heroic.”
She decided to continue teaching her group of displaced students, and open her own school.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - Mother, early 30s, financially independent, loves shopping online: The description may not match your idea of the typical college student.
But Edudemic.com is working to reshape the stereotype with some new data about today’s seekers of higher education.
For instance, over 6 million of today’s college students - about 30% - will go online for at least one of their courses, according to the report. And they'll stay online to do their shopping; college students spent $16 billion over the internet in 2011.
It’s easy to understand how the recession drove many adults back to college campuses. But the idea that 25% of today’s college students are over age 30 might come as a surprise. So might the estimate that half of them are financially independent, whereas many of us remember calling home for pizza money.
A study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education estimated that only a third of new jobs created between 2008 and 2018 will require a bachelor's or higher degree. Today’s enrollment reflects that. Edudemic.com states that over 50% of today’s students are working toward a certification that takes less time to achieve, such as studying a trade or earning an associate’s degree.
And 27% will be balancing their studies with parenting.
The report notes that a total of 19.7 million people will enroll in college this year. That works out to more than 6% of the U.S. population.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - Nothing is further from "Project Runway" than a college campus.
It's true that not every lecture is delivered by a renowned virtuoso, and not every gathering is a frat formal. But it's also true that a lot of students look terrible.
You can help the ones you know clean up a bit by avoiding these common sartorial snafus.
Wearing pajamas when you're not in bed
It's hard to say when jeans became too dressy. It was probably sometime in the '90s. That's when people turned to Zubaz. (Zubaz were conceived when Hammer Pants mated with a zebra or one of its predators.) If you wore Zubaz, you might as well have been wearing pajamas. Hence, pajamas in class.
Here's the thing: No woman ever looks back on her college days and wishes she looked worse. Why do you wanna start behind the eight ball sleeping through Psychology 101 in Spongebob PJs?
For your high school prom, you paid $25 for the ticket and dressed to the nines. If you're gonna spend $8,000 a year on higher education, don't dress for Hulu and cold pizza. FULL POST
By Donna Krache, CNN
(CNN) - A recently released study by the Brookings Institution at Harvard has stirred up the debate over school choice and vouchers.
In some districts and states, parents can get vouchers to pay for their children’s education. Parents may choose to send their children to religious or private schools using the vouchers as payment for tuition. Much of the research surrounding the effectiveness of vouchers centers on more immediate outcomes, such as test scores.
The Brookings study was based on data collected on students who were recipients of vouchers from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation program. In 1997, the foundation offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 per year to 1,000 low-income families whose children were either entering first grade or were already in public schools in second through fifth grades. The Brookings study claims to be the first that used “a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment.” It also claims to be one of only a few studies to track longer-term outcomes, years after students received their first vouchers.
Overall, the study found no effect on college enrollment, except among African-Americans, where there was significant impact.
By Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) - Perhaps right now in Morgantown, West Virginia, they are raising a glass, or rather a mug, to celebrate their No. 1 ranking from the Princeton Review.
Not as the best university for academics, but because West Virginia University was named the best party school in the United States.
The 22,000-plus students there like to let some steam off every now and now, according to the survey, which asked questions of 122,000 students, about 325 per campus at 377 college campuses.
All the schools on the top 20 list have more than 15,000 students, save for DePauw, which came in at No. 12, and No. 19 University of Maine.
"The schools on this list are mostly large, public universities with strong academic and research profiles, as well as highly successful athletic programs," West Virginia said in a news release. "But in the big picture, clearly this list has no real credibility."
West Virginia also topped the "Lots of Beer" list while Providence College was No.1 for "Lots of Hard Liquor."
Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, led the "Stone Cold Sober" list.
By Omar Jimenez, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Omar Jimenez of Kennesaw, Georgia, is a sophomore in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is going into his second year of training on the Northwestern basketball team.
(CNN) - The time has finally come to venture off to college. The emotional roller coaster of excitement and apprehension is a common theme for students and parents alike.
College is not just a place of higher learning but a preview for the real world. The social and academic environment is completely different from that of high school, making the transition tough for some students. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five keys to making the jump from high school to college and landing squarely on both feet.
Honestly, just being responsible goes a long way. There are opportunities to have great social lives in college, but no one will be happy if it comes at the expense of academics. The key is to find a personal balance between having fun and doing schoolwork. The real responsibility comes from being able to make these decisions without the seemingly endless parental nudges given throughout high school.
Personally, I always find that getting work done before hanging out with friends is the best route to take. It is definitely a drag to force yourself to sit down and knock out all your work, but it makes the reward of finishing for the day that much more worth it.
Being responsible will take you pretty far in college, but what about the schoolwork? Isn’t there a lot to keep up with? Everybody says, “Don’t fall behind on your assignments,” but it is much easier said than done. Instead of focusing on a broad goal such as not falling behind, break it down into more manageable pieces.
By Jim Roope, CNN
(CNN) – Getting into a good college is so competitive that even the nearly perfect student has trouble.
[0:38] “I got a 2390 out of 2400 on my SAT,” said 18-year-old Kevin Mark.
Yet with that near-perfect SAT score, a 4.0+ GPA throughout high school, an Eagle Scout and volunteer work for his church and community, he was not accepted to MIT, his first choice of college, nor his second choice Cal Tech.
What do you think about the pressure today's students are facing? Do you have any stories to share? Please leave your comments below.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) – One of the best things about college dorms is that you get to leave them eventually.
They’re bare, they’re cramped, they’re never at the optimum temperature – in other words, they’re not home.
There are a number of ways in which college students make them feel even more remote and dingy. And by avoiding these mistakes, you can make your dorm-room memories a little less regrettable.
You don’t have room for everything; you barely have room for anything. Taking along the extra pillows and stuffed animals and lava lamp and 14 pairs of shoes and unneeded sports equipment is not going to work out well.
One key to surviving dorm life is making the most of the least space. Think of the area under your bed as your closet, and try to fit a season’s worth of folded clothing, shoes, and a much-needed-but-still-mini ironing board underneath.
Plastic bins can help here. Hanging shoe organizers are also a good idea for whatever closet space you do get – or the back of your door, if necessary.
You're gonna need some basics, though. Start with sheets, and find out early if you'll need the regular or extra long twin size. Then, choose something comfortable (cotton jersey is a good, affordable option); you might feel a little uneasy sleeping away from your home bed, and you won't want to curl up on sandpaper.
You'll also need a pillow and a comforter, a shower caddy (filled with products that'll get you clean), and a toiletry bag for your toothbrush, cologne, deodorant and makeup. A robe is also a good idea for getting to and from the bathroom.
Leslie Sherman Jackson, a contributor to the Dallas Morning News, points out that "in addition to a folding hamper for dirty clothes, a plastic laundry basket comes in handy for transporting" whatever you need it to transport.