I get a lot of emails asking me where students can find discounted textbooks, and I’ve written about that here.  And now I have another resource to add to your discount book-finding mission - Better World Books. Not only do they have over 2 million new and used books in stock with free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. (bonus for you!), but this company, founded by 3 friends from University of Notre Dame, believes that education and access to books are basic human rights so every book sold helps fund literacy programs across the globe and in your backyard.

Here’s something cool from their website: “Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,600 college campuses and partnerships with nearly 1,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 11 million donated books into $4.5 million in funding for literacy and education and, in the process, diverted more than 6,000 tons of books from landfills.”

For more information about local book drives or to stock up on some summer reads, check out BetterWorldBooks.com. Happy Reading!

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If you’re still wondering how to foot those college tuition bills for next fall, check out Zinch.com’s Ammunition for Tuition II Scholarship.  It requires creating a profile on Zinch, and once you do that you’ll be able to search additional scholarships on the site, plus use additional resources like college search and networking with other students.  And one of the best things about the Scholarship Matching Page is that Zinch will match dollar-for-dollar any scholarship found and won through their search engine — makes the effort of applying for those $500 scholarships a little more worth it.  Below are the details for the Ammunition for Tuition II Scholarship.  Good luck!

Amount: $20,000
Deadline: June 25, 2009
Eligibility: Current high school student (international students included), graduating in 2009- 2012, with a minimum 2.0 gpa. You must register on Zinch.com and your profile must be as complete as possible.
Judging: Both need of student and merit considered. Winners chosen based on what the student provides in his/her Zinch profile. Make sure it’s complete.

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I spent this last Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and had the chance to sit in on several author panels.  My favorite, by far, featured YA author Lisa Yee who read from her new book Absolutely Maybe which tells the story of Maybe (short for Maybelline, her mom’s favorite mascara brand) who hitches a ride to California in search of her real father.  The novel has already been nominated for a 2009 Teens’ Top Ten award, and if you read the book and like it you can vote for it on the YALSA website. I’m planning on picking up my copy this week.  If you give it a read, I’d love to hear what you think!

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Since 1947, The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have sponsored the “Voice of Democracy” scholarship, an audio essay contest for students in grades 9-12.  This year’s theme has been announced as “Does America Still Have Heroes?” There are scholarship prizes ranging from $1000-$16,000 with the winning entry receiving the grand prize of a $30,000 scholarship payable to the college or university the student ultimately attends.  And each winner of the local VFW branch wins an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. courtesy of Target.  For more information about scholarship contest rules visit The Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

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Threadless, my favorite purveyor of t-shirts, is doing a cool promotion this week for Earth Day.  Buy one of their original, affordable tees, and they’ll donate $1 to PlantaBillion.org. And in celebration of Earth Day they’ve launched a bunch of new green-themed designs.  This one’s my favorite…

Be Green by T-Shirts for Robots (TM)

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If you’re just starting the summer job-hunt you could be frustrated by the fact that a lot of positions typically held by teens are now being filled by an older set.  It’s tough to find work out there these days, so in this economy what’s a teen seeking some extra cash to do?

As The Wall Street Journal reports in their story Cupcakes and Cattle Breeding: Teens Turn to Summer Start-Ups, many teens are turning to their own entrepreneurial ideas to put some cash in their wallets and even add to their college funds.  Teens are going beyond the tried and true lawn-mowing services (which can still rake in a pretty penny) to trying ventures like web design and cupcake catering for birthday parties. And it’s worth mentioning that the experience of starting your own business could make for a great college admissions essay topic (hmmm…something to keep in mind for the future).

Start-ups, of course, can be risky since they require some seed money to pay for supplies and/or advertising, but here’s some tips from WSJ to get the most out of your start-up venture:

Find and fill an unmet need. For example, the skills many teens use every day can be marketable. On Elance.com, a Web site where freelancers’ services are bought and sold, demand among business clients for help establishing a presence on Facebook or Twitter is rising fast, a spokeswoman says. The site requires providers to be at least 18 years old.

Look for a low-cost niche. After a vendor knocked at Loree Greta’s door last summer in Austin, Texas, offering to clean her windows for $150, she suggested her 14-year-old son, Max (the brother of jewelry maker Marlo Adelle), make the rounds offering to do the same for one-third as much. Brandishing a long-handled squeegee, vinegar, buckets and newspaper, Max earned about $300 washing windows.

Find something you love. Jessica Cervantes, a Miami 18-year-old who loves to bake, grew tired of cleaning up cupcake messes and smeary frosting spots after birthday parties for her young cousins. So she cooked up a fancy cupcake on an edible cookie stick and is now selling “Popsy Cakes” for $30 a dozen. Although it’s tough cramming in baking and delivering orders with her homework, she made $6,000 last year for her college fund.

Expect setbacks. During Ms. Cervantes’s first few tries at making Popsy Cakes, “no one wanted to eat them,” she says. Mr. Hunt, a Web designer, says he tried at first to design an online game but failed. Even if you fail, he advises, “go for it. Don’t stop, because you will get somewhere if you try hard enough.”

Have you had success with a summer start-up of your own?  What made your business successful?

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Whether you’re wondering what to do with last year’s prom dress or looking to find an affordable gown for the big event, check out DonateMyDress.org, a national organization that brings together all the dress drive organizations across the U.S. and helps you find a local shop to give or get a prom dress.  The site also boasts features like a photo gallery to get inspiration for your prom look, a place to post your prom stories, plus quizzes, polls, and more.  Once you’ve had your amazing night, consider donating your dress to a local shop and make another girl’s prom dream come true.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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There is a GREAT site you have to check out called The Girl Project.  It’s a national collection of photographs taken by teenage girls that represent girlhood and life as seen through the eyes of young women in America. I am so impressed by the originality and rawness of the photographs, and the cool thing is that you can be part of this project if you’re a girl between the ages of 13-18.

Visit the website, send an email to Kate, and The Girl Project will send you a disposable camera with which you’re supposed to document your life with interesting photographs.  Once you’ve finished the roll of film, send the camera back to The Girl Project, and your photographs may be featured on The Girl Project website and potentially in their soon-to-be-released book.  Check out The Girl Project blog to get an idea of the types of creative shots they like to see.

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There are tons of great resources for college admissions advice out there, and now The New York Times has introduced one more for your perusing pleasure.  “The Choice” launched last week, and it’s a college advice blog featuring nuggets of wisdom from Jacques Steinberg, New York Times education writer and author of “The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College.” I’ve long admired Mr. Steinberg’s work, and I’m sure his blog will prove informative and interesting for any would-be college student or parent of, for that matter.  I think it’s so great that there’s increasingly more access to free and accurate information about choosing the right fit and paying for college.   Definitely be sure to take advantage of these free resources as you begin your college search!

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With money especially tight for a lot of people these days, it may not be an option to go on a college tour this spring break.  But it’s still super important to research as much as you can about the options that are out there, and thankfully there are some great low-cost alternatives to the more expensive college visits.

I’ve blogged before about Unigo, the website featuring hundreds of college reviews by college students.  It’s awesome because you get unedited perspectives from a whole range of students, plus videos, forums, and the ability to save the information you’ve researched to your personal account.

Another great site to check out is YouTube’s recently launched EDU.  Colleges and universities are able to upload videos about the school, lectures from featured professors, or any other broadcast-worthy event from their campus.  What I like about EDU is the opportunity it gives you to “sit-in” on some classes from the comfort of your own living room.

So whether you’re a senior getting your decision notices this week or just starting to research colleges, take some time to know your schools before you make that all-important decision of where to attend.

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