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Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

Aug 22, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

If you think college textbooks have been in the news more than usual lately, you’re right: Classes are starting up again at many college campuses and students are looking for any ways they can to keep their college costs in check. When it comes to books, there are plenty of options to do so without skimping...but between work, interning and moving in, do you have the time to research each individual option to find the best deal? Yes, actually, you do.

The amount of textbook options available to students today is staggering – new, used, rent, digital, rent digital – but students trying to get the most bang for their educational buck now have some much-needed assistance, the Chronicle reports. For example, Amazon (which recently launched its own digital textbook rental service) has created Amazon Student, a free iPhone application designed to help students compare book prices on Amazon as a whole via barcode snapshots. There’s also BookSavr.com, a site formed by two Yalies in the vein of Kayak and Orbitz: The site shows prices from a variety of retailers – online, the campus bookstore and other physical booksellers close to the school's New Haven campus – all in one place.

Not to be outdone, nearly 100 campus bookstores have added research features to their sites through the Harvard graduate-created Verba. Similar to BookSavr.com, Verba displays prices for books at the store, on Amazon, on Half.com, through rental programs, etc. Some campus stores even include signs on each shelf reminding smartphone-wielding customers about the online comparison tool.

Have you had the opportunity to try any of these options when buying your textbooks? We’d love to hear firsthand feedback!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Stress-Free Study Time? It DOES Exist!

Aug 19, 2011

by Kara Coleman

Does it ever seem to you like each one of your professors thinks that theirs is the only class you have to do homework for? How do you give each subject the attention that it needs? These tips may help you out:

Set study goals for each day. Set a schedule based on amount of work and not on time. Don’t say, “Today I’m working on my essay for an hour and a half,” because an hour can quickly get away from you. Instead, say, “Today I’m writing the rough draft for my essay.”

Don’t skip the intros. Reading the chapter introductions in each of your textbooks can help speed up the note-taking process. Since intros tend to hit the highlights of each chapter, go ahead and write down anything that looks like it may be important. Also, having a basic understanding of a chapter’s overall content will help you when you dig deeper into the material.

Pay attention in class. You’re probably thinking, “I already know that!” but sometimes teachers will tell you when certain material is going to be on a test. If your teacher says that a piece of information is important, be sure to make a note of it or highlight it.

Don’t beat yourself up if you forget something. Obviously, there’s no way you can remember everything you hear. But that’s okay! Every time you forget something, your brain has to re-learn it. This reinforcement will actually help you retain information for longer periods of time.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

Aug 19, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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A "Beyond" Helpful Campus Shopping Guide

Aug 18, 2011

by Anna Meskishvili

Anyone who has ever seen the movie “Click” can think back to the opening scenes when Adam Sandler is at Bed Bath & Beyond. Walking into this massive space of shelves, vacuums, table settings and rugs can be beyond overwhelming (see what I did there?) but here are some pointers on managing your pre-frosh trip to this and other home supply utopias.

Storage. Four words: Under-the-bed containers. These plastic trunks can hold up to one season’s worth of clothes...and I invested in three! But what if you have a lofted bed – the bunk bed type with a desk underneath? Purchase a few Space Bags to minimize the space used for clothes you don’t need and hang them in your closet. I am still trying to wrap my mind around how they can make a down comforter the size of a magazine but they do!

Hygiene. It’s shocking how easily a small space like a dorm can become completely filthy so if there is one thing you MUST walk out with from any home goods store, it’s a Shark Vacuum. These wild things are small, won’t take up living space and clean carpets like no other. Also, don’t forget a shower caddy! You do not want to be that girl who realizes she forgot her conditioner while already in the shower.

Dining In. There will be nights where you will opt out of going to the dining hall in favor of a fancy microwave dinner. Warning: Back away from the kitchenware section! You do not need fine china for your dorm room; invest in only a few plates, bowls, forks, knives and spoons. They’ll be perfect for cereal in the mornings and leftovers at midnight – just make sure everything is microwave safe!

Moving into your first dorm is a really fun experience but pack your cart wisely. Those $2.99 knickknacks can add up – buying only what you need saves money, space and stress!

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

Aug 18, 2011

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

Aug 17, 2011

by Katie Askew

Visiting a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming so it’s important to do a little research both before and during your visit.

Most colleges will show you a residence hall during your visit but before you get to campus, check out their housing site online. Take a look at the different options you have for housing (dorms, apartments, etc.) so you have a little background on the types of amenities offered. Also, don’t be fooled by the residence hall you are shown on your tour because it may be the best of the best...and potentially unreachable for you. Ask your tour guide what this hall is like in comparison to others and if it’s only available to certain students (freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, athletes, etc.).

With that in mind, ask your tour guide any questions you have about the school you may call your alma mater one day! It makes the visit more personal and relaxes the tour guide (trust me, we’re more nervous than we look!). The guides have lived in the residence halls, they have taken classes and they obviously know what campus life is like. Ask them what they do on the weekends and what their schedules are like during the semester. Getting an idea of what real campus life is like first-hand from a student can help you decide if this is the school for you.

My work behind the scenes in UM's Office of Admissions has shown me all the wrong things I did while touring college campuses as a high school senior but what I regret most is not asking questions. I don’t know if I was too shy or if I thought I was too cool but either way, I was silent during my visits. In hindsight, I realize that I could have learned so much more if I just opened my mouth! Learn from my mistakes and make the most out of your campus visits.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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What I Wish I Knew When I Was a College Freshman

Aug 16, 2011

by Darci Miller

When I was preparing for my freshman year, I talked to people, read books and generally tried to learn everything I could about what awaited me in this next phase of my life. That being said, there are some things that no book, blog or person mentioned to me, leaving me blistered, hungry and short on tissues. Here's what I discovered through much trial and error:

  • Comfy shoes are a godsend. You don’t realize how much more walking college involves until you’re hobbling back to your dorm, desperate to take off the shoes currently eating your feet. Make sure to invest in a pair of comfortable sneakers for when your cute sandals aren't feeling so cute.
  • Being sick is even worse at school than at home. Mom won’t be there to bring you juice, make you soup or buy you tissues when you're sick at school – you have to do it on your own. And then there’s stress from work and class and the nagging guilt about potentially infecting your roommate. My advice? Vitamin C.
  • You may or may not have an eating schedule. In my first semester, I couldn’t figure out Tuesdays and Thursdays. Breakfast before or after my 9:30 class? Lunch before or after my 12:15 class? I never knew and I was always a little hungry. It’s good to carry a healthy snack with you, just in case.
  • You might not be the only freshman in your classes. It was quite a shock to me to walk into my first-ever college class and find myself sitting next to a man. Not a college-aged boy, a full-grown man who had a wife and kids at home. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy: Classes put you together with people of similar expertise, not age. Keep this in mind especially if AP credits exempt you from intro classes.

You can now go into your freshman year much wiser than I was when I began mine!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

Aug 15, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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My College Graduation Checklist

Aug 15, 2011

by Jessica Seals

After four long years of taking history or biology classes you dreaded, the psychology classes that counted towards your major and quirky electives to reach the required number of credit hours to graduate, it’s finally time to walk across the stage and become a college graduate. As I am now entering the second semester of my senior year, I have learned that there are several steps that you must take in order to successfully graduate.

While attending school, you will more than likely have an advisor that will help you graduate with your desired major as quickly as you can. Of course, these advisors are human and they are bound to make a few mistakes so check the university general education requirements for graduation at the start of each semester to keep track of the classes you still need. This is what I did and because of it, I was never hit with the surprise that I would not be graduating when I thought I would. An advisor will definitely help you avoid this problem but it is always good to double check to make sure nothing is missed.

The other important thing that I learned is that graduating from college is very different from graduating from high school. In high school, you have guidance counselors and teachers who get everything together for you and constantly remind you to turn in any forms. In college, however, you are the one who has to submit your intent to graduate form to the registrar on time, make sure you don’t owe any money, complete exit counseling and turn in any extra documentation required by your school.

Graduating from college will be one of the happiest times of your life. Despite all the excitement, take some time to make sure that everything is in order so that no surprises keep your diploma out of reach.

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Healthy Eating on a College Budget

Aug 12, 2011

by Darci Miller

The fall semester is coming up fast and for many of us, it means leaving home in favor of dorm or apartment life. Whether you’ll be eating in the dining halls or fending for yourself, making healthy food choices falls fully on your own shoulders. The good news is you don’t have to go into debt shopping at Whole Foods to keep the Freshman 15 at bay.

For those of you who will be relying on the dining halls for most of your meals, money is less of an issue than healthy options are. It’s all too easy to opt for a hamburger and fries or a slice of sub-par pizza but trust me, healthier options are there. Most meals come with a vegetable and fruits like apples, bananas and pears are available for the taking so take them back to your room for a snack later in the day. Opt for oatmeal instead of Lucky Charms, whole wheat bread instead of white and water instead of soda. It may not be easy but I promise it can be done!

If you live in an apartment or house and cook your own meals, money does become a limiting factor. Healthy foods do cost more than junk, so coupons and sales should become your best friends. Keep your eye on prices and buy when items are most affordable. And eat what you buy: Splitting a Costco membership with your roommates is great but letting that food go bad is like throwing away money.

Frozen and dried fruits and vegetables are also great, healthy alternatives. They’re cheaper, have longer shelf lives than their fresh counterparts and can sometimes even be denser in nutrients (some are full of sugar, though, so read those labels). Grilled chicken strips also make cooking a healthy dinner quick and easy.

Eating healthy at college may take some extra effort and money but it’s good to adopt healthy habits early. They’ll be second nature in no time!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

Rising Costs Have Students Skimping on Textbooks

Aug 12, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, you’ve probably heard the saying “Friends, school, sleep: Pick two.” If you haven’t, it means you won’t have time to do everything you want...and sometimes need. While there are students who can balance all three, they have another difficult decision to make at the beginning of each semester: tuition, food or books?

According to survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven out of 10 undergraduate students reported not buying one or more textbooks because the cost was too high. How high? The Government Accountability Office estimated textbooks cost a quarter of the average state college tuition (three-fourths at community colleges) and the U.S. PIRG revealed textbook prices have risen faster than overall inflation with a 22-percent uptick in the past four years. For students, this means some serious money management is in order. "Generally what we get from students is 'Yeah, it's only a few dollars, but it could be my dinner,'" said Jessica Bruning, a student at Iowa State University. "It adds up pretty quickly." The survey also revealed four out of five students said new editions prevented them from purchasing cheaper used books and half cited bundles or custom editions as the culprits for increased costs.

The good news – yes, there is some! – is that groups like Textbook Rebellion, Campus Progress and even individual professors are doing their part to keep textbook costs from negatively impacting students’ college experiences. "Better options are out there," said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs. "Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students." Have you had to choose between tuition, food or books? What are you doing to keep your college costs in check?

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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