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Easy Ways to Afford Your Dream School

by Brittni Fitzgerald

Whether it is gas, food or tuition, prices are rising on everything. Everyone wants to attend their dream college without having to end up in debt at the end. College tuition will, depending on your university, have a small increase in price every academic year but if you plan ahead and follow these helpful tips, you can ease that financial burden.

First, open a savings account at your local bank to learn how to manage your money. Banks such as Fifth Third offer students goal setter savings accounts, which allow students to put money into the bank to gain interest as well as receive a 10-percent bonus when they reach their goal. A goal can be $500 and up and you cannot make withdrawal until the goal is met. This feature allows the money to grow without allowing you to give in to temptation and drain the account.

Another way to save is by adjusting your meal plan each semester. Most colleges and universities require that all freshmen have a meal plan each semester and upperclassmen usually have some sort of meal plan whether they live on campus or off. Meal plans are packaged with room and board and can become very expensive. Instead of choosing the meal plan with the most meals per day, choose a meal plan that works for your appetite.

Finally, consider applying to be a resident assistant, or RA, in the university dorms. RAs have to take on a lot of responsibilities like mentoring students and enforcing residence hall policies in addition to a full class schedule but the tradeoff is well worth it: Room and board is free.

Though she moved from Fremont, Calif., to Chicago at the age of 5, Brittni Fitzgerald will always remember the sun and fun of California life. She is the youngest of six children and is currently attending Chicago State University. There, Brittni is an accounting major and an active member of the Student Government Association but also a published poet (in 8th grade, her work was published with the Illinois’s 2004 “Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out”). Brittni enjoys running, swimming, dancing, singing and shopping. Her motto is “Live Life Loud.”


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What to Expect at a Community College

by Carly Gerber

During the summer before my sophomore year of college, I knew I wasn't going back to the college I had been attending. It was too late to apply to a four-year university so I decided to attend a community college before entering a new university. From my experience, here's what you can expect while attending a community college:

  • Academics: Many students enter community college thinking it will be academically easier than a four-year college...but that couldn't be further from the truth. Community colleges are academically rigorous and the professors expected to see all your effort in your work. And if you need help, they have the right resources: My community college offered a writing center and a tutoring center, both of which I visited regularly.
  • Personal Life: A few students I met were balancing jobs, school and families. That’s obviously a lot of work but if students attended classes, did their homework and communicated with professors about their circumstances, many instructors were willing to work with the students to help them pass the class.
  • Community: Despite being part of the name, many students don’t think there will be a sense of community at community colleges. But there is! There were a number of sports teams and student organizations with lots of participation at my school. Plus, the college would have events going on during the school day, like a game of Jeopardy! that would bring students together and lighten the mood on a particularly stressful day.

Overall, I enjoyed the community college experience because it helped me grow both as a student and as a person. For those students who have also attended community colleges, how would you rate your experience?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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The Perks of Joining the Military After High School

by Carly Gerber

Are you stressing out because you don’t know how you are going to pay for a college education? Joining the military is one way to help you pay for college and build your resume.

After high school, Richard Coughlin decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard because they would pay for his college education and provide many benefits such as health care. Coughlin was enlisted from September 2006 until September 2012 but he chose to extend his service for two years and thinks of his time in the military as a very positive experience. Coughlin spent most of his service in Hawaii, where he trained and took classes that were transferred to his current university. According to Coughlin, military members who complete their service feel lost and confused because they weren’t proactive about their next step; however, the Veterans Affairs office at one university was extremely helpful at transferring college credit hours and guiding Coughlin through the process of attending a university, which is why he chose to attend the school he will one day call his alma mater.

Also, since Coughlin was enlisted with the Coast Guard, he was able to get a job as a dolphin trainer as soon as his service was completed. Normally, a dolphin trainer needs either a bachelor’s degree or a certificate but the process was quicker for Coughlin because he had experience from the Coast Guard. The G.I. Bill requires the military to pay for veterans’ college tuition, books, and room and board, but Coughlin has money from dolphin training that can be used towards personal expenses.

Though he initially joined the Coast Guard to help pay for college, Coughlin believes that his service has helped him land a job and taught him respect and independence he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Have you considered joining the military before attending college?

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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The Quarter-Life Crisis Epidemic

by Carly Gerber

“When I graduate, where will I work?”
“What if I can’t find a job?”
“What if no one will hire me because I lack experience?”
“Did I pick the wrong major?”
“Should I attend graduate school?”
“Is graduate school a waste of time and money?”

I apologize if I gave you a minor panic attack but these are questions that weigh on most students as they contemplate their lives after college. If you find these concerns are on your mind on a daily basis, you could be having a quarter-life crisis, which, according to a recent USA Today article, is when 20-somethings have anxiety because they question the direction and quality of their lives. Frankly, however, this anxiety is a waste of valuable time and energy so let’s do some crisis management, shall we?

Firstly, recognize that you have only lived one quarter of your life – you still (hopefully) have three quarters to go, which means that some decisions you make now will not affect your future as much as you think they will. We are ever changing and the interests we have now may not hold true in a few years.

Secondly, let go of how others measure success and measure success on your own terms. Joining new clubs and organizations or becoming involved in an alternative spring break are ways you can find contentment and purpose.

Lastly, talk to someone! If the anxiety is constantly weighing on you, you may want to consult a parent or teacher who has more life experience than you. Remembering that you’re not alone and finding someone who has been in your shoes and has moved past the anxiety you’re feeling will help you get through your rough patch.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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Finding Your Place as a Transfer Student

by Carly Gerber

Transfer students: Does your new school offer everything you want in your college experience or are you still having trouble adjusting to its unfamiliar environment? As a transfer student myself, I know it can take a while to determine your niche so here are a few easy ways to make your new school feel more like home.

My number one piece of advice for transfer students is to get involved with any club or organization that interests you. Shoot for one to three on-campus groups – this way, you’ll be able to meet people with similar interests and still have time for schoolwork and part-time employment. In addition to student government, the newspaper and intramural sports, some sororities and fraternities offer rush during spring semester so if Greek life interests you, go right ahead!

In that same vein, you want to choose activities that you’ll be proud to look back on and talk about during job interviews. (Yes, it’s time to think about where your future is headed – a little scary but we all feel the same way!) Consider visiting your school’s career center and exploring internship opportunities in your chosen field. An added bonus? Some can even be used toward college credit.

Lastly, become friendly with faculty you’ll see often. If you haven’t yet, introduce yourself to your professors before or after class – once they hear you are a transfer student, most will be interested in hearing why you switched schools and will be happy to help you adjust to new academic rigors. Professors and academic advisers are potential recommendation writers so be sure to make a good first impression!

I truly hope your new college or university is exactly what you have been looking for. It takes time to find your way but you’ll get there...trust me.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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Is the Four-Year Plan Making Us Feel Guilty?

by Carly Gerber

According to the Buffalo News, there has been a decrease in the amount of students who receive their undergraduate degree in four years. Fewer than half of the University at Buffalo graduates graduated in four years and many other universities have seen the same decrease in their students graduating in that once-traditional timeframe. For example, Niagara University had only 60 percent of its students graduate in four years, while Alfred University only had 43 percent of its graduates graduate in four years. These statistics aren’t just exclusive to New York State, either: I personally know students from all over who have taken an extra semester or two to graduate.

My circumstances of being a transfer student and a student who has changed her major more times than she can count have caused me to extend my stay at college by a few semesters. Initially, I felt guilt, regret, sadness and self-loathing for needing to spend extra time at college; however, I wanted to feel excited for the future and those negative emotions were only going to hold me back from my full potential. Now, I’m feeling excitement, urgency and passion to take my college career seriously and to become a proud and successful graduate. I feel more mature and wiser because of my setbacks and changes during my time at college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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How Work-Study Can Help You Pay for School

by Carly Gerber

The student librarian or the math tutor in the tutoring center at your university may be one of the thousands of students involved in the Federal Work Study program.

The U.S. Department of Education explains that the Federal Work Study program involves universities assigning college students part-time jobs in their institutions or through private employers. The income may be minimum wage or higher (it depends on the work the student is doing) and the income goes toward the students’ college expenses. For example, the recipient can have the funds go directly toward tuition or books.

Students can apply for the Federal Work Study program (or FWS or Work-Study) annually by filing a FAFSA. The FAFSA asks an array of questions, the answers of which determine the amount of federal financial aid the applicant can receive. Within the application, it asks the applicant if they would like to be considered for the Work-Study program.

Students may apply for work-study annually. Also, students who are in high school should ask colleges they are interested in if they have a work-study program. Work-study program is a big time commitment but it’s a great way to defray the ever-growing cost of college.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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Taking a Gap Year May Enhance Your College Experience

by Carly Gerber

So you’re a high school senior who has worked hard to maintain the impressive grades and variety of extracurriculars that earned you multiple college offers. But before you purchase those extra-long twin sheets and start choosing fall classes, consider how a gap year could positively impact your future.

According to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, more than 50 percent of students in Norway, Denmark and Turkey take a gap year (also known as a bridge year) before college. In the U.S., however, the practice is far from the norm. A USA Today article recently explored some misconceptions about gap years – it’s believed that taking a year off is only for affluent students and students fear that they will be at a disadvantage because they will be a year behind their age group – but in reality, students who take a year off from formal education before entering college find “a focused sense of purpose, independence, self-confidence, grit and resilience,” says Abby Falik, who founded Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit that supports gap year choices. And to further debunk the myths listed above, Global Citizen Year even provides financial aid to students who would not be able to afford a gap year otherwise.

Looking back, I believe completing a gap year would have helped me a lot. I enjoyed my time at my first university but I wasn’t striving for a specific future. I felt lost and unsure if I was going down the right path...even after switching my major three times and transferring to a new university. Following three high-anxiety years, I took a six-month sabbatical from college – time that allowed me to explore and reflect on my goals. I am happy I made the decision to take a break from college because I was able to determine who I want to be and how I want to get there. I only wish I had done so sooner!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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Becoming a Better Communicator

by Carly Gerber

You may be thinking that the day you head off to college, you will be freed from listening to your parents’ opinions. Slow that ship before it hits the bridge: While it’s true you will become more independent at college, your parents (and their ideologies) still exist.

For example, deciding the major you want to pursue is exciting but just as you have picked it, your parents intercept your joyous mood by interrogating your reasons and drowning you with their viewpoints. Don’t get discouraged because this opportunity will help you to become an excellent listener and communicator. Here are a few tips from USA Today to help you become an excellent communicator with your parents:

  • Think. Thinking like your parents will prepare you to come back with solid arguments to questions you know they will ask. Also, your decisions or goals may change because your parents’ concerns are justifiable.
  • Research. Finding information on the Internet can be helpful as well as asking those without any stake in the game. For example, approach professors, advisers, the study abroad office, internship coordinators and anyone that can answer your and your parents’ questions. The more information you come into an argument with, the more clarity your parents will have about your endeavor.
  • Outline. Create a well-thought out, even written argument. Writing an argument will help you organize your points and stay on task instead of drifting into emotionally charged, unprepared arguments.
  • Pitch. Maybe you want to email your parents your written argument or discuss matters over the phone. During every discussion with your parents, remain calm as they speak their minds then go find the answers to their questions.

Becoming a good communicator - especially with your parents - is vital. Many of your parents are financially supporting your college careers and that makes their opinions the most important to acknowledge.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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Are You a Rural or City College Student?

by Carly Gerber

Let’s travel back in time to the beginning of my senior year of high school when my guidance counselor posed this question: “Do you want to go to a university in a rural area or a university in a city?” The question seemed pretty straightforward to me...until I started visiting colleges. Luckily, I visited many types of schools and the visits gave me an idea of where I would best fit but I soon realized that the answer to my guidance counselor’s question was not as black and white as I thought.

From my experience, I learned that you must be as precise as possible when describing where you want to attend college. Some people believe a city school describes any university near a city, not necessarily in the heart of the city. If you prefer one setting over the other, tell your counselor exactly what you are looking for and they will help you find colleges and universities that match your preferences.

There’s also a difference when thinking about rural schools. The University of Wisconsin - Madison and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are Big Ten schools and can be referred to as colleges in rural areas; after visiting both schools, however, one will realize that they are in two very different locations, as one is in a well-to-do suburb while the other is among the cornfields of southern Illinois. I am not suggesting one location is better than another but make sure understand a college’s location and if its location fits your character.

If you have the funds, you should attempt to visit many different colleges; in fact, I suggest starting as early as your freshman year of high school. I visited a university I had been accepted into, but I would have never applied there if I had visited the school before sending in the application. The simple question my guidance counselor asked me was actually quite broad. If you are met with the same query, take time to research the many universities offered so you can decide the location that’s right for you.

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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