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Box 6.1 A Student Looks for Scholarship Information on the Internet

A reasonable place to start is with one of the well-known indexes. Our user might look for the heading "Education" and do a search on "Scholarship Information." This yields two items: "Loan and Scholarship Programs" and "Science: Mathematics: Organizations: Professional: American Mathematical Society." The latter is not of interest to this student, but the former returns 291 sites where the student can seek further information. Because this flood of information is overwhelming, a reasonable response is to go back to "Education'' and follow a link to "Financial Aid." Here the categories are "College Aid Offices" (144), "Companies" (14), "Grants" (35), "Loan and Scholarship Programs" (34), and "Regional Resources" (10). Several of these look attractive, particularly "Loan and Scholarship Programs and Grants." The student does not know where he or she wants to go to college, so the 144 individual offices do not seem to be a good place to look. The prospective student follows a link and finds a site advertising "180,000 scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans representing billions of dollars." Wow, this is getting interesting! The student is asked to enter a major but does not want to commit to one. Hitting "go" gives an error message. Trying "undecided," "none," and "science" leads to frustration. There is a button labeled "more." Here the student is asked to enter name, address, and more information. But he or she may not want to provide such information. Following a previously discovered link, the user can find a list of special loan and scholarship programs, but they all turn out to be narrowly aimed at such groups as beauty contest winners, specialists in cardiac electrophysiology, and so forth. Following yet another idea, the student looks for military-based scholarship programs, but the maze of paths is similarly extensive and unrewarding.

the student's search on the current Internet and obtain a good idea of the state of existing facilities. The student follows a number of reasonable paths, conscientiously reads the entries, and makes selections. However, the search requires a troublesome number of difficult decisions, takes considerable time, and often results in frustration. The student must enter multiple databases that may be formatted in different ways, must interact with each on its own terms, and may have to restate his or her special interests and constraints again and again in each new environment. Eventually, the student will, in all likelihood, become frustrated and decide to ask a high school teacher or guidance counselor for help. Searches of this kind and with this level of success are more the rule than the exception with present-day facilities. If a person wants to access government services, look for merchandise, or report a downed power line, a multiplicity of choices, an inordinate amount of time, and a lack of satisfaction are common experiences.

The main problems are as follows:

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