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by Mary Steffenhagen

As a college student, it can sometimes feel like your pockets are riddled with holes. Most expenses are necessary but cutting the ones that aren’t isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Like most big projects, it's all about knowing how to use your resources to your advantage.

If you haven’t done so already, create a budget. Thankfully, you don’t have to do any of this manually – there are websites that do it for you. I use Mint.com, which is helpful because it links right to your checking account, sends weekly updates by email and, best of all, it’s FREE. There are options for adding budget and saving goals and the site breaks down your spending so you can see what’s going to entertainment, food, school and the like. Once you have your budget squared away, half the battle’s already won!

Despite your best efforts to prune expenses, perhaps you still feel like your university always has its hands in your pockets. The price of textbooks can be a shock once you get your syllabi and if your professors direct you to the university bookstore, you’ll almost certainly be spending more money than you need to. Amazon Student is always a useful option for textbooks and free shipping but there are also some great sites where you can get books used: I use BetterWorldBooks.com and HalfPriceBooks.com a lot. Think about renting books as well, perhaps for the core classes you would never use again. Half.com is a good resource because it links up to your university – sometimes even right down to your class – to help you find what you need for less.

Check around your college town to find out if any business offer deals for students who present their IDs. Restaurants, grocery stores and even locally-owned businesses often participate in such deals – it’s good PR, after all – and if you truly can’t curb your shopping urges, try visiting thrift shops and consignment stores.

Saving money won’t happen overnight – it’s an ongoing process. Starting tweaking in increments and you’ll have those pocket holes mended in no time!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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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by Melissa Garrett

We’ve all experienced lunchtime drama in some way: Where do I sit in a brand new place? Where will I be welcomed or shunned? Which people actually take the time to get to know and talk to me?

If you are new to college and haven’t exactly found your posse yet, going into the dining hall can be really stressful. What many first-year students don’t realize is that college students tend to put the concept of cliques and exclusion behind them once they graduate high school. Chances are that if you simply ask “May I please sit here?” you won’t be shot down.

But what if this does happen? What if someone still has that high school mentality and does exclude you? Although it is unlikely to happen unless you have a grumpy disposition or haven’t showered for a week, people who reject you aren’t worth you time. Brush it off, put on a smile and find somewhere else to sit. Although sitting alone may be your first instinct in a situation like this, doing it too often may make you seem like a loner so don’t resort to it every day. In college, it’s important to be social every once in a while in order to maintain good relationships and improve your overall experience.

If thinking about your next trip to the dining hall is still making you lose your appetite, just remember that college is one of the best places to make lifelong friends. You will also find that expanding your horizons little by little can be just as rewarding, as many other students are in the same boat as you are. Don’t stress: Just choose a seat and enjoy the experience...and of course, the mac and cheese!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Suada Kolovic

Despite the hefty sticker price associated with all Ivy League institutions, estimated yearly costs are actually quite affordable. In fact, Ivy Leaguers graduate with less debt than their peers who attended less prestigious schools. How? Turns out healthy endowment funds play a huge role in aiding low-income, middle-income and even upper-income students with tuition costs. Score!

According to statistics from U.S. News & World Report, many of the best colleges in the county are relative steals for the lucky few who earn admission. For example, Princeton University students graduate with about $5,096 of debt for all four years – the lowest sum for alumni leaving a national university with debt. Amy Laitinen, a former White House education adviser now at the New America Foundation, said, "Folks look at the sticker price and assume that's what everyone is paying. The truth is that the more elite schools have more resources."

But with acceptance rates hovering at less than 10 percent, gaining access to those Ivy League dollars is fiercely competitive. Do you think it’s fair for students who don’t meet the Ivies’ steep admissions standards to be saddled with crippling debt or should the few that do be rewarded with an affordable, brand name education? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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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by Chelsea Slaughter

Are you already involved on your campus? Take it a step further by becoming a respected individual in your organization(s) – there are so many opportunities for you to show people you are just another face walking the campus! Here are some tips on how to be seen as a student leader:

  • Run for Office in an Organization. Choose that one organization that you absolutely adore and run for a position. Don’t be scared about the extra responsibilities: The more in tuned you are with the mission and goals of the organization, the less it will feel like work. As an officer, people will see YOU when they think about the organization...let your love and pride be shown!
  • Join Your School’s SGA. The Student Government Association is a great way to get your feet wet in student leadership. Through the SGA, students can let their voices be heard about campus events, extracurricular activities and policies so if you feel like you have ideas that need some shine, this is the perfect place to bring them. You could even run for a SGA office. (Bonus: Most schools have scholarships for their SGA officers.)
  • Become a Peer Educator, Campus Ambassador or Student Life Worker. I am sure you have seen such people working around your campus, especially during freshman year. Here at JSU, we have peer educators and campus ambassadors that conduct activities like giving campus tours, speaking in freshman orientation class and promoting campus safety. If your campus has something similar, this is an amazing way to get your face seen and gain respect from your peers. There are also student life workers that help in the office and orientation leaders that run freshman orientation during the summer. Many of these are paid positions as well so you can earn money as you give back to your campus.

Chelsea Slaughter is a senior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Mary Steffenhagen

Living on campus is almost a necessary rite of passage for the college freshman. “Don’t miss out on the full college experience!” you’re warned, enticed with stories of spacious dorms, fantastic parties and few rules. Sure, living in the dorms can be fun, exciting and new but it also has it downsides: expensive room and board fees, a mandatory meal plan with food usually not worth the cost, lack of privacy or the risk of a bad roommate. Being a commuter student, on the other hand, isn’t as difficult as it seems: Your school probably has commuter lockers if you have a lot of books, packing a lunch is cheap and quick and carpooling is an efficient way to travel with friends.

I lived on campus for my first two years of school and experienced all the downsides listed above to varying degrees so this year, I am living at home and commuting. In some cases, the pros and cons were obvious. Did I want to pay thousands for a meal plan rather than eat with my family for free? No. Would I rather share a small space with three girls instead of having my own familiar bedroom? No. But would I like to be closer to campus than have the 40-minute commute I now have each day? Yes. I was reluctant to commute at first but I found that the time spent would be made up for and then some by the money I would save. If living at home for a year or two is an option for you, consider it! You’ll save money that you can put toward paying off any student loan debt or – who are we kidding – buying stuff you actually want when you want it.

If a long commute doesn’t interest you but you’re still looking to live off campus, it’s not too late to begin the apartment search. It is possible to find a nice place with affordable rent: College towns often have complexes with student budgets in mind. Splitting rent is an easy way to keep costs down and this time you get to choose your own housemate!

When you live off campus and commute, your time feels more like your own and it doesn’t have to revolve around what’s going on at school. If you’re feeling the itch to leave campus, check out your options and see what’s best for you!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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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by Abby Egan

As an incoming college student, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman experience” a million times by now. Well, think of residence halls as feeding grounds for memories and experiences you can gain outside of the college classrooms: The social atmosphere of residence halls is the most basic way to build college connections and relationships and staying on campus during freshman year is essential to receiving that crash course to how life really is on a college campus.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.

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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by Melissa Garrett

With the number of single-sex colleges in the nation dwindling, it can be rare to hear someone say that they attend a college for women but for me, it is something that I say with pride. Although some people have perceptions that single-sex institutions take away from one’s college experience, I personally believe that it has made mine unforgettable.

I had always visited my family in Pittsburgh during the summers as a teenager. As we would drive around the city looking at universities that I may want to attend, I always immediately dismissed Chatham University. However, I began to wonder how much a single-sex institution could really benefit me and over time, the idea actually became appealing. I looked into it and learned some interesting statistics, such as the fact that only 2 percent of female college graduates attend women’s institutions, yet they make up 20 percent of women in Congress.

I ultimately decided to apply to Chatham, which is most famous for alumni Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and conservationist who wrote Silent Spring. Making the choice to come here once accepted was definitely the best one I have ever made: Since we are all women, we can relate to each other well and are free to act as silly and comfortable as we would like. Close bonds are formed that I believe are found much less often at traditional universities. We don’t have sororities because essentially, we are one big sorority.

If you are exploring your college options, I encourage you to add single-sex institutions to your list. The experience is enriching and anybody who gets to attend college in this form should consider himself or herself to be lucky. Traditional colleges definitely have their great qualities but I personally wouldn’t trade my time at Chatham for anything in the world.

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.

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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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!

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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Who Am I Really?

Creating Your Own Identity on Campus

Aug 29, 2013

by Chelsea Slaughter

Starting off in a new place with new people can be scary. As young people, we tend to flock together in “cliques” or groups we feel most comfortable with and the majority of the time, the members of our groups share many of the same qualities. It's perfectly fine to have friends but it’s important not to lose your own identity.

When I was a freshman, I had a circle of friends that were “one for all and all for one.” When schedules got hectic later in the year, we had less and less time to do things together but it seemed like every time I went somewhere alone, someone asked “Where are the others?” At the moment, it did not occur to me that I was not known as my own person but instead as a member of “that group.”

As an RA in a freshman residence hall, I was able to witness the same cycle constantly repeating. I am not saying to not have friends or a circle to can call upon but I AM saying that you must remember who you are and what’s important to you. If you want to join a club and your friends are uninterested, you should still go for it! This gives you a chance to meet others who share interests the friends you already have may not.

As the years progress, you will see the importance of having a personal identity on your campus. You will see the difference between “Oh look, it’s that group” and “Oh look, it’s Chelsea and her friends.” This is your chance to transition from fitting in to standing out – it's time to find who you are, not lose who you are!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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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by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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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by Melissa Garrett

Resident assistants. So you’ve seen them around campus and you admire how much they help out their fellow students. You’ve seen how much everybody loves them and what a positive impact they have on your university. Are you thinking of becoming a resident assistant yourself? As a new RA, I honestly expected it to be a lot less challenging than it has already proven to be but rather than explaining every last detail, I can tell you that there are some major dos and don’ts for the job:

  • Do come up with some great ideas for your residents. Do you want to plan a fun event or activity? The power is in your hands!
  • Don’t dominate everything. It is important to work with your co-RAs when planning events or deciding on new residence hall policies.
  • Do get excited! Being an RA is not only a rewarding experience but it is also a great way to get to know a lot of people.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. RAs have to go through a lot of training and come back to campus earlier than most students.
  • Do put your residents first. They will be coming to you with some pretty intense problems and you should be willing to help them out whenever they need it.
  • Don’t abuse your schoolwork. Although your job is a super important duty, learn to balance your time in such a way that your academic performance will not suffer.
  • Do be sure to alert your residents if things are getting out of hand. Nobody wants a messy kitchen or bathroom and chances are that your residents will blame you for not calling a hall meeting.
  • Don’t be bossy. Your residents won't feel comfortable coming to you for advice if they’re afraid that you will snap at them.

Most importantly, you should never get involved in something simply for the popularity aspect. If being an RA sounds like something you would be really dedicated to, go for it! It may be a lot of work but if you enjoy helping people, you will probably have a lot of fun being a resident assistant at your university!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.

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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