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To Charge or Not to Charge?

September 13, 2011

To Charge or Not to Charge?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

“Just charge it.”

I'm willing to bet that you’ve been in a store and heard that phrase. Even if you haven't, you’ve probably been bombarded with letters asking you if you'd like to lower your interest rates, encountered representatives hawking credit cards (and complimentary t-shirts!) on the quad or heard of people who have racked up thousands of dollars in debt from recklessly swiping their plastic.

While handling a credit card involves a lot of responsibility, the good news is that it comes with plenty of perks as well. Citibank, for example, offers a Visa card just for college students and has a system of reward points to boot. Depending on your GPA, you can earn anywhere from 250 to 2,000 ThankYou Points just for doing well in your classes. You also get points for making your payments on time, which is a great incentive not to skip payments or only pay the minimum and accrue unnecessary interest penalties. You even earn five times as many points at restaurants, bookstores and more. So, while textbooks aren't exactly cheap, just remember that you're being partially reimbursed every time you use your credit card to buy them.

In a larger sense, using a credit card responsibly also helps students to establishing a good credit score. The higher this number is, the better your chances are of being accepted for a loan on your dream car or house. Lenders will see that you are not a liability and will be more likely to provide you with the funds needed to reach your goals.

If you're still not sold on getting a credit card, that's okay. There's plenty of time to establish credit after college. For those of you considering a credit card, though, just remember to spend responsibly and make your payments as promptly as possible.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Slurp Up This Scholarship of the Week!

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Deadline is October 31st

October 3, 2011

Slurp Up This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

An icy glass of Coca-Cola is a pretty tasty treat but for high school seniors, money for college is an even more refreshing reward. Enter the perfect combination of the two: the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Four Year Award for Seniors.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to 250 high school seniors each year. Fifty of these are four-year $20,000 scholarships ($5,000 per year for four years), while 200 are designated as four-year $10,000 scholarships ($2,500 per year for four years). The scholarships must be used at an accredited U.S. college or university.

In order to be eligible for a Coca-Cola scholarship, a student must be:

  • a CURRENT high school or home-school senior anticipating graduation from a school or program in the United States during the academic year in which application is made
  • a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, U.S. Permanent Resident, Temporary Resident (legalization program), Refugee, Asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrant or Humanitarian Parolee
  • planning to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution
  • carrying a minimum 3.0 GPA at the end of your junior year of high school

The deadline to apply is October 31st but we always recommend applying as early as possible. For more information about this award, conduct a free scholarship search today. Best of luck!


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R.I.P (Almost) Laptops

October 5, 2011

R.I.P (Almost) Laptops

by Jessica Seals

Once upon a time, college students spent hours in the library researching information for their papers before sitting down to handwrite (or manually type out) their findings. Fast forward to the ‘90s, when computers appeared in classrooms everywhere and the Internet gained popularity as a research tool. Students have since opted for laptops to take with them to class and to study but although new models with better features are introduced each year, tablets may soon take laptops’ places on campus.

While doing group work in class recently, I noticed I was the only person in my group using a laptop while the other members were comparing the features of their tablets. After that day, I started paying more attention to the technologies people were using and I became aware of the fact that more and more college students are choosing tablets over laptops – or at least to supplement them.

Although many of the tablets currently on the market are expensive, people – even college students on limited budgets – are buying them. HP TouchPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Motorola Xooms, the brand new Kindle Fire and, of course, iPads, are flying off of shelves and into the hands of college students. Why? They are smaller and weigh less than traditional laptops, can serve as eReaders for digital textbooks and are far more discreet when being transported in a backpack (or on your person).

Like all technology, the price of these tablets will go down with time once more tablets are competing in the market but do you think they will eventually replace laptops completely?

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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The Perks of Student Checking Accounts

by Jacquelene Bennett

Being a college student is stressful. The demands go beyond the classroom and university but despite all of those stressors, being a student also entitles you to some everyday perks – like being eligible for a student checking account at a bank.

So what do you get for having a student checking account? Here are a few reasons to consider opening one:

Fewer fees. Most of the time, student accounts aren’t charged monthly service fees (penalties banks charge for having insufficient funds in an account) or for making transfers from one account to another. Also the minimum amount of money needed to open the account is lower: Typically, you only need $25 to open an account versus hundreds.

Free necessities. When you open a student checking account, your debit card and first set of checks are gratis. Not bad for two things students use on a regular basis!

Rewards. Banks sometimes reward systems linked with the opening of student checking accounts. One of the reward systems my bank has is called "Keep the Change," where every purchase is rounded to the nearest dollar and the difference is automatically transferred to your savings account. After the first three months of transferring your change, the bank matches your savings and gives you the money in your savings account.

Credit card options. When you enroll in a student checking account, most banks give you the option of obtaining a credit card through the bank. This credit card usually has a low interest rate but a low credit line. This is great for three reasons: It will limit your urge to spend, it will keep your payments manageable and it’s enough to help you start building a great credit score.

So those are the benefits of student checking accounts at most banks. You’re only a student for so long – take advantage of the perks while you can!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Interviewing as a College Student

by Radha Jhatakia

Having a job offer before you graduate is ideal but doesn’t always happen. The truth is it’s slightly easier to get a job in college than after because you are on a different playing field than recent grads. When applying for a job in college, you go through university relations but after you swing your tassel from right to left, you become a candidate for human resources like everyone else applying for the position.

Applying starts with the resume. An impressive college resume doesn’t mean multiple pages of volunteer experiences and jobs – it’s about quality, not quantity. Highlight your most important jobs, internships and community service organizations and focus on how the skills you’ve gained would add to the job you’re interested in. Be prepared to talk about these attributes in more detail in your cover letter and during your interview.

If you get an interview, remember to relax. Employers look for students who are confident and collected during the interview – if you can’t handle the pressure of the interview, how will you handle the responsibilities of the job? Bring extra copies of your resume and be sure to dress appropriately: Employers already have certain standards in mind for college applicants and arriving prepared and dressing professionally will show them you are mature and willing to take on responsibilities and tasks that graduates can. In the days leading up to your interview, practice answers to basic questions. Remember, you’ll be having a conversation so try not to sound too rehearsed.

After interviewing, take it upon yourself to follow up with a thank you note to your interviewer, preferably a handwritten one and never one sent from your cell phone. This seemingly small gesture will go a long way in employers’ books; you’ll stand out from the crowd in a positive way and land the job – or at least some interview experience – as a result!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Preventing Identity Theft in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all heard the stories about people whose lives have been turned upside-down by identity theft and college students are not exempt. Part of the reason why identity theft is so rampant is that people don't take the necessary precautions. Here are a couple of tips to help keep your identity intact.

Install anti-spyware software on your computer. Spyware is just what it sounds like: software designed to spy on the personal information you provide through your computer. Hackers can then obtain everything from your credit card number to your password on Facebook while you're connected to the Internet. If you have anti-spyware installed on your computer, though, you'll never have to worry about spyware in the first place.

Keep your personal information private. Keeping your credit card and social security numbers under wraps is a given but identity thieves can find out lots about you through the information you post on Facebook, your blog and other online forums. Avoid posting your address and birthdate where anyone can find it. Also, never give your personal information to someone who contacts you claiming to be from your credit card agency. Think about it: If this person really was from your credit card agency, he or she would already have your personal information on file and have no reason to ask for it.

Shred sensitive documents when you've finished reading them.Dumpster divers” rummage for a number of things in those big metal bins...including documents containing personal information. Don't make their job any easier: Shred all your mail and any other papers containing personal information before anyone else can get a hold of them.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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The Daily Paywall

College Newspapers Get Mixed Reactions to New Fee Initiatives

October 17, 2011

The Daily Paywall

by Alexis Mattera

You’re working on a paper in your dorm room one evening (not the night before it’s due, of course!) and are searching for sources to strengthen your argument. As you near the required page limit, you remember your brother mentioning a series of articles published in his school's newspaper a few months back that would help bolster your point. So you log on to the paper’s website and find the articles you are looking for...only to be met with a paywall.

If you haven’t experienced the scenario above, you may in the near future as a number of college newspapers are adding paywalls for online content access. Early adopters of the initiative aren’t charging on-campus users but are instead asking off-campus non-students for donations or relatively small dues depending on the amount of content they consume. How does it work? It depends on the school: For example, Boston University’s Daily Free Press added a donation page and Oklahoma State’s Daily O’Collegian charges a nominal $10 yearly fee to non-students outside a 25-mile radius of the college to access more than three articles a month.

The paywall initiative does have its supporters – BU calls it a “no-lose situation” and digital-subscription company Press+ has offered to cover the start-up fees of the first 50 campus papers that sign up for their service – but it also has its detractors: Jeff Jarvis, a blogger and professor of new media at the City University of New York, thinks colleges would be better off taking a page from Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and looking for alternative revenue streams. Where do you stand on the college newspaper paywall issue? Should the content be free to everyone or are fees a way to remedy the broken traditional media model?


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The Impact of Merit Aid

October 19, 2011

The Impact of Merit Aid

by Alexis Mattera

Wherever you are in the financial aid process, you’ve probably heard the term merit aidfinancial aid based on students' academic and other merit rather than financial need – and its increasing popularity over the last decade or so. What you may not know, however, is the impact this trend has had on students seeking need-based aid.

According to a new report by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, state and institutional financial aid for low-income students has dropped significantly as merit aid has increased. From 1995-96 to 2007-8, the proportion of merit aid recipients in the highest quartile of family income rose from 23 percent to 28 percent, while the proportion of merit aid beneficiaries from the lowest economic quartile fell to 20 percent from 23 percent. (See more statistics here.) The report also suggests that many institutions have embraced merit aid because they believe this type of award will entice middle- or high-income applicants to attend their school over others (and pay more money to the school as a whole during the time they are enrolled) instead of offering financial assistance to low-income students who truly need the funds to attend college.

What’s your stance on merit aid? Does it help more than it harms in higher education or vice versa?


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How to Save Even More Money on College Essentials

by Jessica Seals

Spending $500-plus on books every semester is enough to make any college student dread a new class schedule. After two semesters of spending that much on my books, I became determined to find a way to keep as much money in my bank account as possible. Of course, I made the decision to start buying my books from discount places online such as Amazon and eBay but I also wanted to see if there were other ways to keep from paying anything at all without having to rent books. I started reading blogs started by people who were once in my same position and found a bunch of helpful tips for earning extra money online.

It probably sounds crazy to say that I spend a great deal of time taking online surveys...but I do. After doing my research, I discovered sites such as Swagbucks, MyPoints, E-Poll surveys and Valued Opinions, which have users search the web and complete other activities in return for virtual currency and gift cards. I’ll admit I was skeptical until my first gift cards started arriving – and they actually worked when I went to redeem them! It took me a while but once I got the hang of it, I was able to redeem my points for Amazon cards that I use to pay for all of my books. I no longer dread the beginning of the semester because no money comes out of my pockets for school-related costs and beyond: I’ve also earned gift cards to restaurants and retail stores so I can eat and shop for free as well!

Interested? Give it a try...but understand that you’ll need to put forth some effort to reap the benefits. At times, I have spent all day on these sites (days when I don’t have class, of course!) and because of this extra effort, I’ve had more success. You may not have the same results but I still think it’s worth it to pass along this information and help other college students save money.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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College Class Trips: Are They Worth It?

by Darci Miller

When I got to college, I assumed that class trips were a thing of the past. And for two years, I was right. So when I found out there was an opportunity to travel to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with my travel writing class, I was pretty blown away.

My professor told us that the school would pay for hotel expenses, our admission into the park and dinner on two nights, while student participants had to shell out money for flights (several hundred dollars!) and lunch for several days. Like my fellow virtual intern Kara Coleman said, experience is often more valuable than education but would this be worth it? My parents seemed excited about this opportunity for me and offered to pay, so it was settled: I was going to Wyoming.

We left at the crack of dawn on a Thursday morning and returned at almost midnight on Sunday. Luckily, The U's fall break fell on that Friday and travel writing is one of my two classes on Thursday. Getting out of my one other class was relatively simple – it was a school-approved absence – but I still had to figure out how to deal with the time I now wouldn’t be able to spend doing homework. In the time leading up to the trip, I was also scrambling to get ahead on my newspaper duties: I’m the opinion section editor and had to work double time so I wouldn’t leave the rest of the staff in trouble during my absence.

The trip itself was such a great experience! Grand Teton is absolutely gorgeous and it was really cool to get to know some of my classmates (and my professor!) better. I don’t know when else I’d ever get the chance to go to Wyoming, let alone write about it. And guess what? The newspaper got along mostly fine without me. (When I turned my phone on after a full day of travel, I saw a frantic text from the managing editor. Can’t win ‘em all!)

In trying to gain experience, don’t just do what looks good on your resume. Taking opportunities like these give you the chance to expand your horizons, see and do new things, and handle a different kind of stress.


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