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The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

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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Making Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Dorm

by Radha Jhatakia

Not all college students are able to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. If this sounds like you, don’t worry: You can still get into the holiday spirit in your dorm. Many of you are probably wondering how to pull off a Thanksgiving feast when you don’t have a kitchen and/or cooking skills but here’s a little guide to help you:

  • You can find ready-made mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or buy raw potatoes and cook them in the microwave (some even have a button for this). For gravy, buy a powdered packet and add the requirement of heated water. Voilà!
  • If you don’t want canned cranberry sauce, heat fresh cranberries in the microwave until the juices are released. Add sugar to taste and mix while slightly mashing them with a spoon.
  • Candied yams would be difficult to make from scratch in a dorm so buy canned pre-cut and peeled ones. Heat the yams in the microwave with butter then add some cinnamon and sugar (granulated white and brown). When the sugar melts, you’re done!
  • Boxed stuffing can taste just as good as the homemade kind. Get the Stove Top brand – all you need to do is mix it with hot water.
  • For the bird, most grocery stores have cooked rotisserie turkey and chicken. You can add your own seasoning or eat it as is.
  • Get a bottle of sparkling apple cider or grape juice for delicious mocktails.
  • Pick up a ready-made pecan or pumpkin pie from your grocery store for a treat...or maybe even some seasonal cupcakes.

Bon appétit, everyone!

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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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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Create a College-Friendly Holiday Budget...and Stick to It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s that time of the year again where we see festive decorations, cheerful people...and empty wallets. The holiday season can definitely take a toll on our bank accounts – not only do you have to buy gifts but you have to get formal wear for fun holiday events! Can it be done on a college budget? Hard to believe but it can!

First, know where and when to shop. Stores will sometimes offer seemingly large discounts on Black Friday but drop prices even more as the holidays draw closer. How do you know which sales you will save the most on? Well take a look at retailers’ websites to determine the prices and sales they usually have. If you see the percentage of the sales on "special shopping days" are the same as their usual Saturday sales, it’s not a deal! I know what stores I need to go to by doing a little research ahead of time, targeting what items I want and finding additional discounts online and in catalogs: Last year, I found a $99 jacket on sale for $19!

Also, think about making gifts – it’s the thought that counts after all! This year, I’m on a tighter budget so I’m going to make customized stockings. People love gifts that are handmade over something store-bought that might be exchanged. You can even fill the stockings will homemade treats; there are so many recipes for easy-to-make desserts online!

Just remember that the holidays are not about how much you spend. Shop only for what you need and give the rest from the heart. Enjoy the season, amazing food and great friends without going broke!

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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Your College Application Guide

by Radha Jhatakia

For seniors in high school, it’s about that time to dive into your college applications. The process is rather involved and has the potential to become very stressful but here’s how you can go about it while retaining your sanity.

First, you likely already have a list of colleges you are considering but start narrowing down your top contenders. Look at the majors they offer and see if they have the programs you’re interested in. Check the cost – financial aid may play a key role in what college you attend – and also see if they have activities that interest you (a sport you want to play, a specific student organization, a Greek system, an honors program, etc.). What’s the on-campus housing situation and could you see yourself living in the dorms? Consider these questions and more when deciding whether or not to apply to a college.

Second, check all the application deadlines. Remember, besides the actual application, you must submit test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements and you need adequate time to procure all of these items. Also, review the fees associated with each application; some schools let you apply for free or a discounted rate online but you should also consider requesting application fee waivers if money is tight.

Third, the personal statement is the biggest part of the college application because it represents your personality. You may have a high GPA, AP classes and extracurricular activities but so do many other students – what will set you apart from the rest of the application pool is how you present yourself in the personal statement. Have a teacher or parent review your personal statement and edit it for you before submitting it to your college of choice.

Fourth – and although this is fourth on this list, you still want to get it done early – request recommendation letters. Ask teachers you’ve worked with and trust well in advance if they can write on your behalf. Have two or three for each college that requires one. Along with your personal information/resume/school involvement list, give the teacher an envelope that is stamped and addressed to the college(s) to which you’re applying so they can submit their letters directly.

Last but not least, take all your tests on time. If you haven’t taken the ACT, SAT or SAT II tests, register for the next available date; check which tests your colleges require and sign up for those ASAP!

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

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

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?

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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by Scholarships.com Staff

Earlier this week, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities released information on tuition increases at private colleges and universities for the 2009-2010 academic year. While tuition is increasing on average, the good news is that the tuition increase is the lowest in 37 years.

Tuition and fees are projected to go up an average of 4.3 percent at private colleges and universities nationwide, with some colleges managing to hold their increases even lower or freeze tuition rates to help students struggling to pay for school in the current economic climate. While it still greatly outpaces inflation, it's lower than the average increase over the last 10 years, which has been around 6 percent. The survey did not address changes in the cost of room and board.

Meanwhile, private colleges are also increasing institutional grant and scholarship aid. On average, schools allocated 9 percent more to college scholarships and grants for 2009-2010 than the previous academic year.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While fall classes may still seem far off for many students, incoming college freshmen and transfer students are already attending summer orientation and registration sessions. Choosing classes leads directly to one of college's biggest sticker shocks: the price of textbooks for those introductory classes. With individual texts regularly carrying triple-digit price tags, a semester's worth of textbooks you may never touch again can seem an unreasonable expense.

Increasingly, students skilled in money management are finding an array of options to make acquiring textbooks less painful. Used bookstores abound just off campus at many colleges, giving the campus bookstore some competition and mitigating prices at least to some extent. Particularly on-the-ball students race to the university library or avail themselves of inter-library loan options to check out required reading for free. Other college campuses have begun renting popular textbooks for prices significantly lower than the cost of buying them new.

For other students, though, the Internet is the place to find discounted books for class. A number of popular retailers offer used textbooks, though students may run the risk of getting an outdated edition or an instructor's edition of any text they buy sight unseen. Students who buy books online also face the same problem as students who buy from the campus bookstore: after the semester's ended, you may well wind up stuck with an edition of a book you didn't really want to own in the first place.

A few companies are now offering services that combine the convenience of online textbook shopping and textbook rentals. The New York Times recently profiled Chegg.com, a website that allows students to rent textbooks online, similar to online video rental services. While paying $50 or more (plus shipping) for a book you don't even get to keep if you want it can be hard to swallow, online rentals do have advantages: Rental prices can be significantly cheaper than the price of purchasing a textbook, online rentals offer more selection and students don't have to worry about whether they'll be able to find a buyer for their unwanted books at the end of the semester.

Whether or not you choose to rent your books for class, it's nice to know that there are ways textbooks are becoming more affordable. Cheaper books mean your financial aid and college savings can be stretched further...and that's always a good thing.


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