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Volunteering During the Holidays - Do It!

December 6, 2011

Volunteering During the Holidays - Do It!

by Radha Jhatakia

The holiday season has arrived. We see decorations up everywhere and sales for the things we’ve coveted all year. We go to parties, have feasts of delicious holiday food and exchange gifts. It’s all very beautiful and spirited but there is a very realistic part of the holiday season that often gets overlooked.

When you pass by those beautiful decorations, how many of you notice there are people sitting on the sidewalk, not because they’re tired of shopping but because that is where they live? When you are at the register spending hundreds on gifts, how many think about those who barely have money to eat? I think ‘tis the season we college students start thinking of others!

With the current state of the economy, many people are unable to celebrate the holidays the way they would like so let’s spread our good fortune to those who don’t have as much. Most college students have an entire month off from school between semesters so do some good during that time! Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. These organizations are often short staffed during the holidays because of the amount of people that go in so they will be grateful for any time you can spare.
  • Organize a food drive and then help deliver the goods. You can also look into working with a charity that distributes food baskets for those who aren’t homeless but can’t afford holiday meals.
  • Give a gift to someone less fortunate if you can. Community centers set up toy drives during the holidays and some schools even have “Letters to Santa” programs where needy students share their holiday wish lists.

Making someone’s holiday even a little bit happier is easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of time and effort to give someone else the joy you are blessed to have.

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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Economical Workout Alternatives

February 25, 2013

Economical Workout Alternatives

by Samual Favela

Every year, thousands of college students waste their money at the gym to get workouts they could get for free around their own cities. Here's how to make the most of your workouts AND your budget!

If you are looking to build lots of muscle, the gym is for you but if you’re just trying to get some cardio in, spots around the city would be perfect. With little research, students can find trails, high school tracks, parks and clubs. For example, I found out the times and days my local high school’s facilities were open to the public and I started going there to run on the track and up the bleachers – I could feel the difference in my legs and waist in two weeks! I also bought a jump rope so I can add a little extra cardio and I am even considering joining a Crossfit club so I can write more in detail about the benefits and procedures of this type of workout.

When beginning a workout routine, some students may feel insecure seeing others around them running a little faster or lifting a little more. This could translate into a student giving less than 100-percent and decreasing the quality of his or her workouts, thus wasting money. Exercising at various spots across the city can help eliminate this insecurity because the surroundings (both scenery and people) are always changing. Working out outside also helps on a more spiritual level; connecting with nature is something everyone needs to do and some of us don't get enough of that in our busy schedules.

So save your money and go for a run outside – it really is more enjoyable for your wellbeing and your bank account!

Samuel “Samwell” Favela is a journalism major at Long Beach City College. He’s interested in all things media – he enjoys blogging, Instagramming and hosting his own campus radio show – and is always excited to meet new people. Samwell’s educational journey has already taken him from Pomona to Long Beach and shows no sign of slowing down...which is exactly the way he likes it!

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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

January 3, 2013

The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

by Scholarships.com Staff

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2011 for the 2012-2013 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)
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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

December 2, 2011

Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:

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Why Credit Cards Don’t Deserve the Bad Rep

August 21, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Depending on the hands it falls into, a credit card may serve as an ultra-convenient money stack, or it can—if I may be overly dramatic—lead to financial suicide. For those who can manage their expenses and pay their monthly balances in full, owning a credit card is a great idea. Walking around with large amounts of cash is dangerous, and buying online is quite a hassle a without a credit card. Emergencies that necessitate fast funding also come up, and when they do, a bit of debt pales in importance. As you probably know, building up a credit report is one of the biggest incentives for taking advantage of credit cards. Credit card companies know that many parents will take care of student debt, and they’re not shy about making application offers to students. Booths with pizza and t-shirt giveaways fill up campus corners and busy sidewalks on sunny days. According to CBS, the average student is offered eight credit cards during their first college semester—no job required. Once students graduate, they are less likely to receive financial backing from their parents. With new expenses and student loans kicking in, graduate fledglings are considered to be bigger liabilities to credit card companies. Ironically, just when credit cards become most important, they become most difficult to come by. Renting an apartment involves a credit check, as does taking out a car loan and a home mortgage. People with bare credit reports are big question marks to sellers, landlords and credit card companies. If there is little or no credit history on your report, you may find yourself staring at bigger bills or doorknockers. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make it without a credit card, but having one sure does help. Good track records with a national credit card such as Master Card, Visa, and Discover (lesser-known store cards may not contribute to credit ratings) give lenders some evidence of dependability. Unfortunately, many students have a hard time creating a positive track record, and therein lays the problem. Students frequently look to credit cards for tempting pick-me-ups and tuition aid. Don’t get me wrong, not all indebted students are shopoholics, but those who look to credit cards for financial aid might want to look elsewhere.

Scholarships, grants, jobs and less expensive student loans are a student’s best bet because late payments may hurt in more ways than one. They will show up on credit reports, result in $20-$25 late bank fees, and lead to increases in credit card penalty charges. If you handle your credit card wisely, you won’t need to worry much about penalties and annual percentage fees, but you should definitely shop around before applying. Search for a card with the lowest fixed annual percentage rate (APR). Numerous cards will start you off with a low APR but raise the rate after 6 months. Also, be on the lookout for standard annual fees. There are cards that charge standard usage fees, regardless of payment history. Look for those that don’t. Once you build a good payment history, you may receive credit card offers galore. Little cards with your school logos may arrive in your mailbox. Yes. That’s cute. Chase knows that you go to the University of Illinois, but you already have a card. Refrain from getting another one. According to the United Marketing Service (UCMS), the average Joe carries 2.8 credit cards in his wallet: don’t be Joe. When you apply for a new card or loan, a credit inquiry will be recorded on your report. The more inquiries are made, the lower your credit score. I know, just because you want a discount on American Eagle jeans does not mean that you will not pay your bill in full. Unfortunately, lenders may assume that credit inquiries suggest financial need—even if they don’t. If you can stay on top of your expenses and limit the number of credit cards you own, you should take advantage of college application offers. As long as you can control the card before it takes control of you, using a credit card can bring you one step closer to a secure financial future.

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Medical Insurance for College Students

August 28, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

There are so many things to think about when entering college. Financial aid for tuition, room & board and book expenses initially come to mind, but many forget another important expense—medical insurance. Before students head off to college, they need to seriously consider future medical aid options. Those with a history of ailments are likely to explore their options, but so should the poster children for health. Unfortunately, a large portion of health-related issues surface during adolescence. The fact that college students are frequently stressed out and sleep-deprived sure doesn’t make things better.

Student Insurance Under a Parent Policy

In more ways than one, students who enter college are better off than those who finish school at 18. Those who are considered dependents under the health insurance plans of parents are frequently given the boot on their eighteenth birthday - a not-so-nice way to be welcomed into the adult world. Those who head off to college, however, continue to be dependents under their parents’ plan for a few more years (usually until they turn 23 or 25). This typically applies to full-time students only. Those who are enrolled part-time may be ineligible or forced to hand over additional cash.

Student Insurance Under a College Policy

Schools typically offer their own college insurance plans for those who choose to take advantage of them. Oftentimes, students are automatically charged for this service unless they let schools know they are uninterested. Some states require entering students to be medically ensured. If that is the case, students who choose to reject school offers must show proof of alternative coverage. The costs of college insurance vary greatly, but they are frequently less expensive than private options. This tends to come at the expense of quality.

Graduate Student Insurance

You may have noticed that full-time students can retain a parent plan until they turn a certain age—a few states extended the eligibility age to 30. More often, however, students may be cast aside during their low and mid twenties. According to a Commonwealth Fund report, about 30 percent of the nation's estimated 44.4 million people without health insurance are 19-29 years old. This makes them the largest group of newly uninsured. Graduates students with no income and plenty of expenditures are not pleased. Schools do take graduate school students into consideration, but they do so at a cost. For example, the University of Illinois Champaign insurance policy for the 2007-2008 year is $180 for undergraduates; graduates have to pay $256. College students do have options, but they need to be prepared.

When putting aside college funds, expect the unexpected. Scrapping together additional 529 plan money and applying for a few more scholarships may be in order.

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College Costs , College Life



Mixed Feelings on Future of Student Loans

June 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Students who took out Stafford Loans shortly before July 1, 2006 may have fumed upon finding that rates would be fixed for future lenders. Those repaying older, variable-rate loans during the 2007-2008 school year were stuck with a 7.22% interest rate (6.62% during in-school or grace periods) while those whose student loans were disbursed after July 1, 2006 were secure knowing their annual rates would not exceed 6.8%. 

Well, the tables may be turning. During the 2008-2009 school year, interest rates on variable loans will be cut to 4.21% (3.61% during in-school and grace periods) while fixed rates will barely budge. For those with fixed loans first disbursed between the July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2008, these changes will be meaningless--their annual 6.8% rate will still apply. Those whose loans are first disbursed this year may get a bit of a break with the new 6.0% fixed rate (which only applies to undergraduates), but that’s a bittersweet consolation when one considers the larger variable rate cuts and the quickly rising college costs.

Luckily, the future is not completely sour for students with fixed-rate loans. Those who are able to hold off borrowing for a few more years may benefit from doing so. That's because interest rates on fixed loans will gradually fall over the next few years. Understandably, not everyone can afford to hold off. This being said, those who can should.

By 2011, the interest rates on fixed loans are expected to drop to 3.4%. Students who can't wait that long can still save money by waiting for at least one more year. Undergraduates who take out a Stafford Loan between July 2009 and July 2010 will be paying a fixed rate of 5.6%. That's certainly better than 6.8% or the upcoming 6.0%.
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Financial Aid Available to Graduate School Students

June 17, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The government recognizes the dire financial circumstances of numerous undergraduate students, and slowly, steps are being taken to change things for the better. Three new federal grants have been created within the past two years, the maximum Pell Grant award has risen and interest rates on undergraduate Federal Stafford Loans will begin their gradual descent this fall. But…where does that leave graduate school students?

According the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees is expected to rise by 12% between 2006 and 2014, and many of these students will need financial aid. While certain aid does not apply to graduate school students, plenty of assistance is available to those who know where to look. Here are just a few options:

Federal Aid Unfortunately, graduate school students are not eligible to receive federal grants, but federal aid in the form of federal work study and low-rate student loans (Stafford and PLUS) are still an option. And while the recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act will not lower loan interest rates for graduate school students, those who borrowed before July 1, 2006 will see a substantial drop in their bill. Variable interest rates on federal loans will decrease from 7.22%to 4.21 % this year.

Scholarships and Grants Numerous scholarships and non-federal grants are not just available to graduate school students, they are restricted to them. Companies and organizations frequently offer aid to graduate school students who display an interest in work that aligns with their goals. After all, these scholars can be the future innovators of their industry. To find scholarships you may be eligible to receive based on your year in school or major of interest, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

Employer Assistance Students who commit to working for a certain employer may be lucky enough to receive full or partial compensation for an additional degree. This is often the case with hospital staff, educators and employees who could help their companies profit through new skills and certifications.

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Pell Grant Increase Approved by Senate Panel

June 26, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Tuesday, a Senate panel approved a budget that would increase, among other things, the Pell Grant funding for the 2009 school year. Currently, students who demonstrate financial need—as determined by a Department of Education's FAFSA calculation—can receive no more than $4,300 in Pell Grant money, but not all eligible students receive the full sum.   For the upcoming year, the Pell Grant cap will be $4,731. If the Senate panel’s budget is approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and by the Senate, students could be eligible for up to $4,800.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Senate panel’s bill would also provide new funding for the TRIO program, a seven-part financial aid initiative created to aid students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those facing circumstances that might hinder their academic pursuits. Additionally, it would provide colleges and universities with more money to pay for the Perkins Loan forgiveness program, one wherein colleges cancel the loans of students who enter select public service fields.

Today, the new initiative will move from the Senate panel to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and, if approved, it will be voted on by the Senate. Any differences between the Senate and House versions will have to be ironed out, and, only then, will President Bush have the option of signing.

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Five Women Charged in Private Student Loan Scheme

June 27, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Kathy L. Hardy, her two daughters and two other associates are being charged for having allegedly taken out numerous fraudulent private student loans since 2005. The five women were accused of having received a combined sum of more than $690,000 by filling out over 70 student loan applications, reported U.S. News.

Though many of the loan applications were denied, a number of lenders, including Sallie Mae, the biggest student lender in the business, lent tens of thousands to the applicants. By using stolen Social Security numbers and the information of victims whose names resembled their own, the five women were able to slip by lender verifications.

The FBI's investigation into the matter began when one of the victims complained that someone had taken out a loan under her name. Upon further investigation, it was found that the women alleged to have been at fault had stolen numerous identities—including one that belong to a deceased person—to collect money.

The case raised concerns that the stealing of identities to obtain private student loans may be too simple. Because private student loans are easier to obtain than Federal Stafford and Perkins Loans, and because private student loans are not sent directly to colleges and universities, the potential for fraud may be considerable.

To minimize the chance that similar problems will arise in the future, a congressional provision that would force student lenders to forward loans directly to schools is being considered.  The suggestion has received mixed reviews from lenders who, one hand, would like to eliminate the possibility of fraud, and, on the other, want to facilitate the borrowing process for potential customers.

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