College Success: Students Who Have Beaten the Odds

If you think college is out of your reach, think again. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the grades, the money or the support of family, if you are willing to work hard, you can go to college. Students from lower economic backgrounds, returning military veterans and non-traditional students from all walks of life have succeeded despite the odds against them. They not only got into college, but excelled. Here are a few of their stories.

Going Back to School

Years ago, when she was in nursing school, Dana Hainer got a call that changed her life. She and her husband learned that they were approved for adoption. Dana dropped out of school to care for their newly adopted family member, who had multiple medical issues. As time passed, Dana’s situation changed. Her son grew up and Dana and her husband divorced. Determined to find the right school to fit her non-traditional circumstances, Dana entered the nursing program at Rasmussen College. The one-on-one attention she received enabled her complete the program in 2013 and rapidly re-enter the workforce.

It’s Never Too Late

Michael Hurley, a 65-year-old police officer in Texas, earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice by taking classes after work. While taking classes he dealt with brain tumor surgery and hurricane damage to his home. Through it all, he kept up with his studies. He obtained his degree in 2008. His four-year degree resulted in an automatic pay raise and opened up teaching opportunities at San Jacinto College. Hurley says, “Old men need their education, too.”

When There’s the Will, There’s a Way

Students in underserved communities have a tough time getting the grades and skills they need to get into college. Many communities offer intermediary programs that help students whose home situations are unstable. Anthony is a case in point. He was placed in the foster system when he nine and became homeless at age 15. Falling far behind academically, Anthony enrolled in the Gateway to College program that serves kids 16 to 21 years of age who have dropped out of school or are significantly behind their peers. The program gets them back on the path to academic success with the ultimate goal of earning a college degree. Since his enrollment, Anthony has earned over 100 high school credits, 25 college units and more than doubled his GPA. He graduated in the fall of 2012 and is currently studying at a community college with plans to transfer to a four-year institution.

The people in these success stories have one thing in common. They each sought out programs and support systems that enabled them to succeed. Programs like Gateway to College and Educational Justice in Louisville, Kentucky, are designed to help disadvantaged young people succeed. Non-traditional students find what they need by enrolling in the school program that fits their needs, family obligations, goals and personal circumstances. Many communities have programs in place to help you get into college, no matter what your situation. You just have to look.

Bizarre College Scholarships You Didn’t Know Existed

You’ve taken the ACT, started filling out applications, researched college campuses and narrowed down your choices. Now, you’re sitting at home in front of the computer searching for scholarships to help pay for your education. You find the typical needs, gender, ethnic group and subject-based scholarships, but if you look harder, you will find scholarships that are a bit out-of-the-ordinary. In fact, some scholarships border on the bizarre.

Are You Ready for Something Completely Different?

Duck Brand Duct Tape sponsors the Stuck at Prom Scholarship. Applicants must be 14 years of age or older and legal residents of the United States or Canada. To qualify, applicants must make every piece of their high school prom outfit out of Duck Brand Duct Tape and submit a photo of themselves wearing their creations. Entries are judged on originality, workmanship, accessories and use of colors. Awards range from $500 to $5,000.

If you live near Stuttgart, Arkansas, you can apply for the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Scholarship. Graduating high school seniors are eligible to apply. There’s good news and bad news about this scholarship. The good news is that the number of applicants is small. The bad news is that applicants have to enter Stuttgart’s yearly duck calling contest in November. Awards range from $500 to $2,000.

FMC Agricultural Solutions sponsors the Stand and Be Heard Scholarship. To apply, applicants must be members of a nationally recognized agricultural-related organization, such as 4-H, NAMA or FFA. They must also submit a video performance of themselves singing the National Anthem. Awards range from $5,000 to $10,000.

Paintball, Knitting and Greeting Cards

The Bob Gurnsey Scholarship is open to senior high school students who have a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher and have been accepted as full-time students into a two- or four-year accredited college. Applicants also have to be current paintball players. Awards range from $500 to $2,500.

Sponsored by Jimmy Beans Wool, the Beans for Brains Scholarship is open to any student who attends an accredited institution. Applicants must know how to knit or crochet, provide a photo or original pattern of a recent project and allow Jimmy Beans Wool to use the photo in their own media venues. The award is $2,250.

The Gallery Collection sponsors the Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship. Applicants create and submit original artwork, computer graphic or photo of the front of a greeting card. High school, college and university students enrolled in a degree or diploma program are eligible. The award is $10,000.

Sometimes, You Just Have to Be You

Some scholarships simply ask that you be yourself. Tall Clubs International (TCI) sponsors a scholarship for first year college students who meet the club’s height requirements. Men have to 6’2” or taller and women 5’10” or taller. The Billy Barty Foundation awards scholarships to students who are 4’10” or under and have medically proven dwarfism. The Vegetarian Resource Group sponsored scholarship accepts applications from vegetarians who promote vegetarianism in the local community or school. The Van Valkenburg Memorial Scholarship is given only to documented descendants of Lambert and Annetje Van Valkenburg.

Standardized Tests: What’s Wrong and What’s Right About Them?

Standardized tests have been part of the American education system for over a century. Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are college entrance exams designed to assess a student’s ability to succeed. When the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) became law in 2002, standardized testing in public schools was mandated in all 50 states. Annual reading, math and science testing is now required for grades 3 through 8 and once again in high school. The NCLB was created to improve student performance and uses performance scores to evaluate teachers and schools. Low scores not only have repercussions for the students, but can also lead to the dismissal of teachers and school closings.

NCLB was passed to address the declining performance of American students in math and science. Experts blamed rising poverty, poor teacher performance and tenure policies that make it difficult to fire teachers who under perform. Student scores on standardized tests is the method used to gauge student, teacher and school performance.

Today’s standardized tests typically consist of multiple-choice questions and are graded through an automated process. Standardized testing is multi-billion-dollar industry, due in large part to the NCLB mandated testing requirements. The first standardized tests were very different.

The first known standardized test was given in Imperial China in the 7th century. Government job applicants were tested about their knowledge of Confucian philosophy. The Industrial Revolution sparked the use of standardized testing in the Western world. Farm and factory workers rushed back into classrooms and testing gave educators the tools develop relevant curriculums. Reformers Samuel Gridley Howe and Horace Mann used the centralized Prussian system as a model and introduced the first standardized test to the Boston school district. Developed to provide a single standard, compare schools and gather information about the quality of teachers, the test was soon adopted across the country. Concerns about excessive testing were voiced in 1906, when the New York State Department of Education warned that persistently drilling students was a “very great and more serious evil…” The earliest known multiple-choice test was the Kansas Silent Reading Test, developed by Kansas school director, Frederick J. Kelly. His goal was to reduce time and effort in scoring and test administration. International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) hired inventor and teacher Reynold B. Johnson to create a test scoring machine prototype in 1934.

Standardized testing has always had its supporters and detractors, but the debate is more pronounced now than ever. Since the NCLB passed, low standardized test scores result in high-stakes consequences for students, teachers and schools. The question of whether the use of standardized tests improves education in America is very much a divisive issue.

What Standardized Test Supporters Say

Standardized test supporters believe that testing has a positive effect on student performance and achievement. Richard P. Phelps, a testing scholar, analyzed over 100 years of standardized test research and found that 93 percent of the studies found a positive effect on student performance. A 2010 McKinsey & Company report found that 20 school systems that use national and international performance assessments achieved “significant, sustained, and widespread gains.”

Supporters point to the fact that China, with its long tradition of standardized tests, leads the world in reading, math and science skills. They also say that teachers, students and parents in the United States overwhelmingly support standardized testing, that the tests are fair and administered at a low cost and that the quality of school curriculums has improved since the NCLB was initiated. Supporters believe that standardized tests better prepare students for college.

What Standardized Test Critics Say

Standardized test detractors believe that testing is an inhibitor, not a performance booster. They point to the fact that in 2002, before NCLB was initiated, the United States was 18th in the Programme for International Student Assessment, but dropped to 31st in 2009, seven years after it was enacted. Detractors do not believe standardized tests accurately measure student performance. A 2001 Brookings Institution study found 50-80 percent of year-to-year test score improvements were not only temporary, but were caused by fluctuations that “had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning.”

Critics also believe that standardized tests are geared toward those in higher economic groups and discriminate against low-income, non-native English speakers and special needs students. Detractors believe that standardized testing forces educators to “teach to the test,” rather than teach meaningful classes that and promote creativity, enthusiasm, empathy, leadership, courage and compassion, qualities that cannot be measured with tests.

The Future of Standardized Tests

There is no question that standardized testing is here to stay. Changes are on the horizon, however. The College Board recently announced a completely redesigned SAT, the college entrance exam it administers, that will take effect in the spring of 2016. The current test has long been criticized as an unfair and unreliable measure of college readiness.

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative is likely to add to the number of standardized tests students in middle and high school take. Common Core is an educational initiative that endeavors to establish educational consistency throughout the United States and better prepare all students to successfully enter two-year or four-year colleges. The initiative sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association, currently has 44 state members. Common Core State Standards Initiate assessments will begin in the 2014 to 2015 school year.

Get Better ACT Scores With Proven Techniques

Higher ACT scores often translate into greater opportunities for college, scholarships, and grants. But many students fail to earn scores that demonstrate their strong academic abilities and skills. Moshe Ohayon of Louisville is an ACT expert who devised a new approach to taking this test and achieving higher scores. Called “The ACT for Bad Test Takers,” this revolutionary new strategy teaches students who are disappointed with their test performance how to completely change their approach to the ACT.

The way most students have learned to take tests in school often doesn’t work for the ACT and may even be result in lower scores. He and his team of experts studied the ACT extensively and devised a revolutionary approach that teaches students how to let go of old test-taking habits and, instead, apply strategic and practical thinking to get higher ACT scores.

Moshe and his team at Bad Test Takers were not born with a magic test-taking gene. Just like many of the students they help, the ACT was a challenge when they first encountered it. As an educator, however, he wondered why many who take the ACT perform well in school but fail to score highly on standardized tests like the ACT. Test anxiety alone, Ohayon reasoned, simply couldn’t account for the vast number of students who found themselves in this situation. He gathered a team of experts to study and analyze the ACT and its structure. Based on their discoveries, he and his team developed a new strategy called The ACT for Bad Test Takers to help students achieve the highest ACT scores.

When Ohayon and his team at Bad Test Takers set out to develop a new way of taking the ACT, they realized that each section presented its own set of challenges. What seems natural to most students to do on the ACT is often counter-productive. For example, most students believe it’s critical to finish the test in the time allotted, and a staggering number of students do very little preparation for the test, if at all. Even among students who do prepare, for instance, there are those who attempt to ready themselves for the English or Reading sections by studying formal grammar or even vocabulary or for the Math and Science sections by memorizing lists of formulas and equations.

Ohayon and the Bad Test Takers team discovered that a different approach more accurately reflects the ACT’s structure and the way it’s scored. A groundbreaking yet simple strategy, the ACT for Bad Test Takers gives students the tools to achieve higher scores.

Taking the ACT is an experience few forget. But Moshe Ohayon doesn’t have to think back to his high school days to remember the anxiety he felt when taking the ACT. That’s because he and his team of tutors regularly take the test themselves. They certainly don’t do it because they enjoy the stress and fatigue of answering ACT questions for four hours on the occasional Saturday morning or because they want to brag about routinely scoring in the 99th percentile (between 33 and 36). They do it to make sure their approach works and to continually put themselves in their students’ shoes.

This is what has made the The ACT for Bad Test Takers a powerfully effective and highly popular strategy that has helped thousands of students reach their target scores.