Finding College Scholarships

September 30th, 2016 by

Finding scholarships can seem like a daunting task, but there are plenty of opportunities available to you. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by NerdWallet found that over $2.9 billion in scholarships and aid went unclaimed during the 2013-2014 school year. The money is out there, you just need to know where to look.

Your first step is submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which tells you how much in federal aid you qualify for based on income, among other factors. For the 2017-2018 school year, the FAFSA opens on October 1st with the priority deadline being December 1st. These dates are earlier than previous years, as the FAFSA is undergoing several changes to make it easier for students to receive aid.

Next, check out scholarship matching websites. Sites such as or ask you to fill out personal information and then find you scholarships that fit your needs and qualifications. These sites often provide a direct link to the scholarship website or application. Also when you’re searching, try to think of what makes you unique. There are scholarships based on gender, cultural background, religion, even height!

While you can qualify for some scholarships based solely on an application, many scholarships require a little work on your part. You may need to provide examples of experience, write a short essay or take part in an event. Take note of all application deadlines and read scholarship rules carefully to make sure you are meeting all the requirements before you submit the application.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply for scholarships or grants because you think you won’t qualify. Additionally, don’t discount local scholarships just because they aren’t as lucrative as the $10,000 sweeps contests. You have a much better chance when there is a smaller pool of applicants, and every dollar counts when it comes to finding money for your education.

Most of the $2.9 billion in unclaimed aid went unclaimed simply because students didn’t apply. Take advantage of every opportunity that is out there.

Looking for more help funding your education? Check out our Paying for College course to learn more!


In the News: Changes to FAFSA to Help Students Receive Aid

September 28th, 2016 by

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is making several changes to impact students in the upcoming academic school year. This year, the form for the 2017/2018 school year will open on October 1st with the priority deadline changing to December 1st. This is four months earlier than past years.

top-5-fafsa-faqs-for-2016The FAFSA is also allowing students to use prior-prior-years tax information. Previously, students had to use prior-year tax information. This was problematic for many students whose parents hadn’t filed their taxes yet and were instead asked to estimate. Now students can submit accurate tax information from two years prior to the school year and no longer have to log in a second time to update information once taxes have been submitted. For example, for the 2017-2018 school year, families will submit tax information from 2015 instead of estimating information from 2016.

Changes to the FAFSA will allow students to know how much aid is available to them earlier, giving them more time to accurately assess their financial situation before committing to a school. Before these changes, financial aid information often arrived less than a month before students had to decide on a school. Now students and their families have several months to explore financing options and figure out whether they can afford tuition.

There is some concern that changes to the FAFSA application dates will influence schools to change their decision dates as well. Federal officials have requested that schools refrain from making changes to their own deadlines as this would make the FAFSA changes irrelevant.


How to Turn an Internship into a Career

September 26th, 2016 by

Surveys show that employers hire more than a third of their interns as full-time employees. Give yourself an edge by following these proactive strategies for turning an internship into a career.

Choose the right internship. If you want an internship to turn into a full-time position, make sure you choose the right internship for you from the beginning. Internships can be a great way to gain experience in different fields, but not every opportunity is the right place for you to start your career. Choose an internship that relates closely to your dream job or can help you get there. If you wouldn’t be interested in a full-time position at the company, then don’t choose an internship there.16928125254_55e94fdb77_b

Be professional and bold. Throughout the course of your internship, it’s important that your employer sees you in a positive light. Remember, when you’re an intern your every move is being scrutinized. Always dress and act professionally while you’re in the office. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at meetings or to take on extra work. Show your employer that you are assertive, but not overbearing and willing to go the extra mile for the company.

Meet with your manager and set goals. At the start of your internship, ask to meet with your manager. Be honest about your interests and career goals. Let them know what you want to accomplish during your internship and what you want to accomplish throughout your professional life. This isn’t the time to flat out ask for a permanent position, but it is a great way to lay down the groundwork and show your dedication and interest in the company. Also consider meeting with your manager regularly and asking for feedback to see where you can improve.

Attend all intern activities and work events. Larger companies that hire many interns often hold events for interns, as well as general work events. Attend most, if not all of these events. In addition to showing interest in the company culture and getting to know your peers, these events can also be a great networking opportunity. Making a good impression on the people within the company — especially those who make the hiring decisions — can only help you when a position opens up.

Keep in touch after the internship. If the company doesn’t hire you after the internship ends or if it was a summer internship and you’re continuing school in the fall, make sure you leave on good terms and keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to be persistent. Contact the company periodically, letting them know you’re still interested in working for them and asking if there are any openings. If you’re looking for a position after graduation, ask if you can continue to put in 5-10 hours a week during the semester. That way you are still involved with the company even when you can’t direct your full attention to the work.


In the News: Head Start Program Overhauled

September 23rd, 2016 by

Head Start, the early education program geared towards low-income families, has received its largest revision since 1975. The changes, put forward by the Obama administration, removes burdensome education requirements, increases the program to a full day and improves services for children with disabilities and students that don’t speak English.

Changes to Head Start were inspired by recent reports supporting the positive effects of early childhood education. Strong early childhood education and students that have participated in the Head Start program have higher test scores, higher attendance rates and are more likely to graduate high school, go to college and receive a post-secondary degree.head-start-logo-clip-art-1550474

The current budget for the program is $294 million, with an additional $292 million proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget. A bulk of the funding is going towards increasing childcare to a full day, which will be phased in over the next five years.

Since it’s inception in 1965, Head Start has helped over 33 million children and currently enrolls more than one million children every year.

Interested in making a difference in children’s lives? Take one of Next Step Academy’s Careers in Education courses to learn what it takes to become an educator.


Five Tips for Eating Healthy in College

September 21st, 2016 by

Avoiding the dreaded Freshman Fifteen can be a challenge in college. Junk food is readily available, dining halls tend to be all you can eat and for the first time you have the freedom to eat ice cream for dinner if you really want to. Don’t let yourself from unhealthy habits. Keep yourself accountable with these 5 tips for eating healthy in college.  

cereal-1474496_960_720Don’t keep junk food in your dorm room. When you’re working on a paper late at night and you need a snack, you’re going to eat whatever is around. Only keep healthy snacks in your dorm room to prevent yourself from snacking on junk all night long. Need some inspiration? Try apples and peanut butter, veggies and hummus, baked corn chips and salsa, or trail mix (heavy on the nuts and seeds, light on the dried fruit and chocolate)

Keep a snack in your pack. Pack a granola bar or other prepackaged healthy snack in your bag at all times. When you’re rushing to your next class and the urge to snack hits you, it’ll prevent you from grabbing a chocolate bar or chips from the vending machine.

Fill half of your plate with fruit/veggies first. When you’re eating in the dining hall, it’s easy to fill up your plate with pasta, pizza and the special of the day before you even see the salad bar. To prevent yourself from overeating and loading up on the unhealthy meals offered, hit the salad bar first and fill up at least half your plate. If you’re still hungry afterwards, you can always get more.

Don’t drink your calories. The unlimited juice and soda available in the dining halls is extremely tempting, but you’ll end up consuming a lot of unnecessary calories. Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times and fill up throughout the day. Limit your soda consumption to weekends or when you’re dining out.

Eat breakfast in the dorm. Opt for a lower meal plan and eat breakfast in the dorm. Breakfast food tends to be cheap. So in addition to eating healthier breakfasts every day, you may also end up saving money in the long run. Buy food like eggs, fruit, yogurt and granola — food that doesn’t take long to prep, but will fill you up until lunch. Strapped for cash? Fruit is available all day in the dining hall, so fill your backpack up at dinner and you have breakfast for the week.

Looking to build healthier habits? Take Next Step Academy’s Fitness course!


Preparing for a Skype Interview

September 19th, 2016 by

Remote interviews are becoming more common and acceptable. From a business perspective, it makes sense: an interview over Skype can save valuable time and money. There’s a good chance a Skype interview could be in your future, so it’s important to know how to prepare.11075028576_6b76d4878c_b

Set Up. Make sure you have Skype set up a few days ahead of time and that everything is working properly. Troubleshoot your camera and microphone to make sure the picture and sound is clear. Also be sure that you will be centered on the screen and not off to the side. Lastly, make sure wherever you plan to interview that you have a strong Wi-Fi connection or you can plug into the Ethernet to ensure a good connection throughout the whole interview.

Lighting. When setting up your camera, consider the time of day and the amount of light that will be available. If your interview is at a time with no natural light or if you’re in a room without windows, you may want to consider setting up a lamp so the image isn’t so dark. However, you also don’t want so much light that your face becomes washed out or uneven light where half your face is in shadow.

Background. Keep your surroundings and the background of what will be in view of the camera clear of clutter.  Sit in front of a plain wall and make sure your desk or table is clean. Remove posters and knick-knacks from view.

Attire. Even though you aren’t meeting in person for the interview, proper attire is still important. Read our blog about dressing for the interview for more tips on proper attire. It’s also important to note that even though the interviewer most likely won’t see your bottom half, doesn’t mean you can wear sweatpants. Putting on a complete and professional outfit will put you in the right mindset for the interview.

Body Language. It can be easy to lose focus when you aren’t being interviewed in-person, so be mindful of distractions. Keep pets locked up and ask roommates or family to stay quiet during the interview. The interviewer can only see you from the chest up, so sit up straight and be aware of tapping and fidgeting in your seat.

For more ways to prepare for your career, take one of the professional courses at


In the News: VR Technology in the Classroom

September 16th, 2016 by

Advances in virtual reality (VR)  technology is opening up a world of possibilities, especially for students. VR technology is still in the early stages, but it is already revolutionizing the way learning takes place in the classroom.


The most basic virtual reality technology comes in the form of Google Cardboard. This is essentially a cardboard box. Students place their phone inside the cardboard goggles and hold it to their face. There are also pricier versions of VR goggles such as Nearpod. Nearpod still uses the student’s cell phone to provide the content, but is higher quality than the cardboard version and can actually be worn instead of just held. For Galaxy users, Samsung also has VR goggles that work exclusively with Galaxy smartphones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn addition to providing the actual goggles, both Google and Nearpod offer field-trip simulation software. VR enhances lesson plans on a whole new level. Teachers can guide students through the Louvre or on a space expedition. Instead of just teaching students about the Egyptian pyramids, students can put on the headset and suddenly be transported to Cairo.

The New York Times has also developed an app for VR. With NYT VR, teachers can  have their students read an article and then involve their students with the VR video. Students can experience an airdrop of food in Somalia or the life of a displaced family in Ukraine. VR is a powerful tool, helping students feel empathetic and truly understand the experiences of others around the world.

For more ways to enhance your learning, take a quick, convenient and mobile course at Next Step Academy.


Careers in Clinical Biochemistry

September 14th, 2016 by

Clinical biochemists work in labs to research, diagnose and manage diseases. They need to have great critical thinking skills, be passionate about problem solving and above all else have a love for science. Does this sound like you? Then you should consider a career in clinical biochemistry.


The first step towards a career in clinical biochemistry is a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree will prepare you for entry-level positions in clinical biochemistry such as a laboratory technician or research assistant.

clinical-biochemA master’s degree in biochemistry will be necessary for career advancement, allowing you to work as laboratory operations manager or a clinical lab scientist. A master’s degree is also necessary to teach post-secondary education.

A PhD isn’t required of clinical biochemists, but you will need to earn your PhD if you want to pursue independent research in the field.

Classes at the bachelor’s level cover mathematics, computer science, physics, biology and chemical sciences. As you study, classes will become more specialized covering topics such as toxicology, genetics, neurobiology and molecular biology. You will also be expected to complete laboratory hours, internships and possibly personal research.


Clinical biochemists look at the processes happening within an organism at a molecular level, studying the components of cells. They analyze organic samples (bodily fluids), looking at lipids, proteins and organelles to find anomalies. When an anomaly is found, clinical biochemists run tests to help patients diagnose and manage their diseases.

Typically, clinical biochemists work in hospitals, medical research facilities or pharmaceutical companies. Clinical biochemists work full-time, sometimes being required to work nights and weekends or have on-call hours.

Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for biochemists was $82,150 in 2015 as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This varies depending on the degree held and whether you work in a lab or in research. Employment of clinical biochemists is expected to grow by 8 percent over the next decade.

Want to learn more about a career in clinical biochemistry? Take our course “Careers in Clinical Biochemistry


The Job Search

September 12th, 2016 by

Whether you just graduated or are just looking for a change of pace, there is a lot to consider when looking for a job. Here are the four biggest areas you need to keep in mind during the job search process.

14089983055_af729e023b_bLocation. Before you start looking for jobs, you need to consider how far you’re willing to commute to work everyday. Would you commute an hour or possibly relocate for the perfect job? If not, you need to decide what is an acceptable commute and search for jobs within that distance.

Reputation. Does the company you’re applying to have a good reputation? Do they offer benefits and treat their employees well? When considering a job you need to look at the environment the company creates. Websites like allow you read reviews by past employees to get a good indication of how you’ll be treated as an employee if you get hired at the company in question.

Qualifications. You need to be honest with yourself about your experience and abilities, meaning you should look for jobs seeking candidates with your skill set. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore all positions that you don’t qualify for 100 percent. It’s good to reach for opportunities. For example, if a job opportunity is seeking someone with 3 years experience in the field and you only have 1 but earned a lot of experience in the process, still give it a shot and apply. However, if a job requires a master’s degree and you only have an associate degree, that may be too far of a stretch.

Personal Satisfaction. Money and benefits are important, but so is your personal satisfaction. If you don’t love the work you’re doing, it’s going to be hard to get up early every day for work, no matter how large of a paycheck you get at the end of the week. Make sure you are clear about the type of work you’ll be doing if you get hired. Also consider the ethics, goals and purpose of the company. If the company’s ethics don’t fall in line with your own personal ethics, then it may be personally taxing to work there every day.

Looking to find out what career is right for you? Take a course at Next Step Academy to find out if it would be a good fit.


In the News: Does a balanced calendar improve learning?

September 9th, 2016 by

Nearly 86 percent of schools in the United States follow a traditional calendar consisting of a 180 day school year with a long 12 week break during the summer. The original purpose of a long summer break was so kids could help their parents harvest crops, an outdated consideration which is causing more schools to switch to a balanced calendar.

5374200948_539b10fb1c_bWhat is a balanced calendar?

A balanced calendar takes the traditional 180 days of schools and spreads them out throughout the entire calendar year. Instead of a long summer break of 12 weeks, students typically receive a one to two week break every six to eight weeks.

When schools follow a traditional calendar, many students experience what is referred to as “summer brain drain.” On average, teachers spend six to eight weeks re-teaching information at the beginning of each school year.

When students go to school year round, they can retain information better and teachers often spend less time re-teaching after a short break. Research shows that students that attend school year-round have improved retention, better test scores and higher attendance rates.

There are also some challenges associated with a balanced calendar, however these challenges are typically experienced by districts that have schools following different schedules. Transportation and heating/cooling costs increase when two schools within a district aren’t on break at the same time. Parent’s also state that finding childcare can be a challenge when schools within a district aren’t on the same schedule.

The future of education seems to be shifting more and more towards a balanced calendar and continued learning throughout the entire year. As district-wide change occurs and families get past the culture shock of year-long education, challenges should dissipate allowing students to reap the benefits of a balanced school year calendar.

Don’t attend school with a balanced calendar? Keep your brain in tip-top shape by taking life skills and careers-in courses at Next Step Academy!


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