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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, 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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Communicating with Authority Figures

March 19, 2012

Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

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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Staying Safe Online

June 7, 2011

Staying Safe Online

by Radha Jhatakia

We’ve all heard that we should be careful of the information we put on the Internet but how many of us actually listen to this advice? There are news stories and movies made about what can happen when we put our personal information online, yet many people believe that nothing bad will happen. The truth is that it can be quite dangerous to share private information in any setting; the Internet just makes it easier.

Social networking sites have changed the modern generation. We put up tweets and Facebook statuses about every minute thing we do. Every picture taken at a party goes up on the web (whether the subjects are mentally stable or not) and every gripe about a job or professor is tweeted or turned into a status message. These things can affect you in many ways...if not now, then in the future: They can prevent you from getting a job or getting into school and people who post their addresses, phone numbers and emails are not only at risk of identity theft but could be stalked...or worse.

If you have not adjusted the privacy settings on your personal profiles, change them immediately. When someone friends you and you’re not sure you know them, decline the request or message them to get more information. Don’t volunteer private information about where you live or work to anyone, including using “check in” applications like those on Facebook and foursquare. Sure, it’s fun to let your friends know you’re using your hard-earned work-study dollars to treat yourself to a meal outside the dining hall but if your privacy settings are too low, everyone with access to your pages will know where you are at any given time. You could return to your dorm to find your laptop missing.

In the most basic of terms, when it comes to sharing information online, be cautious and trust your gut.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Credit Cards Are Not Magic and Other Money Management Tips

June 23, 2011

Credit Cards Are Not Magic and Other Money Management Tips

by Radha Jhatakia

Managing money is difficult for many people, not just college students! I’ve been taught to save every penny and paying for school myself has been the biggest reason but friends of mine who haven’t struggled as much don’t have the same outlook. For them, credit cards are magic and their parents are instant money taps.

My best friend is the reason I’m writing this article. She struggles with money but I don’t understand why. She’s been working since she was 16, her parents pay for school and bought her a car yet she doesn’t have a single dime saved! Ever hear the phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned?” I’m guessing she hasn’t but it’s true. Gaining a dollar doesn’t mean you have to spend it because in the future, you may not have that dollar. Here are a few more tips:

Having bad credit now may not matter to you but it will affect you in the future when you apply for home loans and car insurance. Be wise, spend wise and look up the rule of 72.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Staying Safe and Having Fun Are Not Mutually Exclusive

July 14, 2011

Staying Safe and Having Fun Are Not Mutually Exclusive

by Radha Jhatakia

Your school needn’t be a known party school for there to be one...or many. Just remember, whether you are throwing a party or attending one, safety should be your first priority.

For party attendees:

  • Keep your beverages in hand. If you put your drink down, get a new one; it’s one of the best defenses against being slipped a “roofie” (aka the date rape drug).
  • Employ the buddy system. Guest lists grow by word of mouth so if you don’t personally know the host, take some friends with you. This will ensure you all arrive at the party and return home safely.
  • Practice safe sex. When some people drink at parties, they have indiscriminate sex. To avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs, use the above tips or take protection with you whenever you go to a party just in case.
  • Don't give in to peer pressure. Have fun the way you want to have fun. If you're uncomfortable with something going on, remove yourself from the situation.

For party hosts:

  • Card hard. It doesn’t matter if the person is your best friend or if you don’t want to seem lame: If you are caught with someone under 21 at your party, you will be charged with serving alcohol to minors.
  • Be aware. Minors and people in possession of drugs and other illegal items can enter your place of residence if you’re not paying attention. If they are caught, you will pay the price.
  • Manage damage. If something breaks or someone spills, make sure the mess is dealt with or you’ll most likely lose your security deposit.
  • Eliminate alcohol completely. You don't need to get drunk to have a good time. Game nights and movie marathons are just as entertaining!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Proper Planning Breeds College Success

July 19, 2011

Proper Planning Breeds College Success

by Radha Jhatakia

In life, keeping things in order, having a set schedule and planning ahead will truly save you time and keep you on track. In college, staying organized is even more important.

When making your shopping list for college, put a planner at the top. I have been using one since I was in elementary school and it has always helped me stay on top of my stuff. It came in handy most in college, though, and helped me to stay organized from the very beginning. The best kind to buy is one that has slots for individual days as well as a monthly calendar. This will allow you to keep track of all your classes, assignments, meetings, work schedules, extracurriculars and will prevent you from forgetting about something important. As soon as you get an assignment, write it down and remember to check your planner every day. You will have far fewer scheduling conflicts and will become adept at managing your time and keeping a healthy balance between work and play. You can also incorporate Post-its to keep track of tentative times and dates while keeping your schedule looking neat.

There are also other tools you can use like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, which help sync media from different sources to keep track of all appointments. If you have a cell phone – and these days, who doesn’t? – use its alarm feature and tack a calendar up on your bulletin board as a backup (maybe even share it with your roommate and color coordinate your to-dos). Whatever your choice, make sure it’s something you are comfortable using and will remember to continuously check so that you don’t forget anything.

By staying organized all throughout college, you’ll be well-prepared to enter graduate school or the job market. College professors and potential employers appreciate organization: You will be a perfect TA candidate or employee if your superiors know they can depend on you. Be smart, be organized, be successful. It’s as simple as that!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Dealt the Roommate from Hell? Here’s How to Deal

July 21, 2011

Dealt the Roommate from Hell? Here’s How to Deal

by Radha Jhatakia

There’s one thing about living on campus that everyone always worries about and that is the roommate situation. Unfortunately, unless you have a friend that you plan on living with, you will have very little control over who your roommate will be. Sorry!

When it comes time to sign up for housing for the first time, most colleges will have incoming freshmen fill out a survey of roommate preferences. You’ll answer questions including sleeping habits and visitor preferences and be matched with someone who has similar answers so honesty is the best policy here. You could get lucky and have a fantastic roommate who you’ll become best friends with...or be unlucky and get stuck with someone who’s a nightmare. If you’re faced with the latter, you have limited options but one trick I’ve found is to make friends with your resident advisor early – he or she will help you get any issues resolved quickly and efficiently or act as a mediator to help negotiate differences.

Setting ground rules on the first day is also a must. It sounds strict and uncool but important to plan out study times, lights out, clean up schedules, etc. so you won’t step on each other’s toes later down the line. If your roommate still makes sharing a room difficult, you can try to switch rooms by contacting the housing office to file a formal complaint. Most schools will only let you change rooms if your roommate is hostile (think: stealing your things, displaying abnormal/aggressive behavior, drinking or doing drugs). If you are fortunate enough to get a new room assignment, remember to set those guidelines from the get-go...and pray to the housing gods that your new roommate is better than your old one!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Cheating in College: Don't Do It!

June 29, 2011

Cheating in College: Don't Do It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s 6 a.m. and you just can’t conquer the writer’s block for your 20-page term paper. You didn’t procrastinate on purpose – that party was too good to pass up or the homework for all your other classes was overwhelming – but no matter what the reason, it is never acceptable to cheat. Cheating undermines the effort of your hard-working classmates who complete their work honestly and on time. Cheating also strips the cheater of his or her integrity and whether others can put their trust in said person again.

Unfortunately, there are many people who cheat in the world but you should not be one of them. You should want to get by on your own merit, not that of others. That is why there are such harsh penalties for cheaters: When a person plagiarizes in college or is caught cheating, punishments can include being given a GPA-tanking “F” in the class, being stripped of high honors, losing scholarships or even being expelled from the university. These are minor punishments compared to what happens in the real world for cheating, which could include multi-million dollar lawsuits and jail time.

I think I’ve been pretty clear here but I haven’t, just heed these two words: NEVER CHEAT. It’s not ethical and is looked down upon by almost everyone. Hold your head high and remember that doing your best and failing is better than cheating and passing. A professor would have more respect in you if you are honest and ask for help rather than if they catch you cheating. Professors were once college students, too; if you need an extension or are truly struggling, they will most likely remember their own college days and show you some compassion if you are truthful.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Confused in College? Contact a Counselor!

July 8, 2011

Confused in College? Contact a Counselor!

by Radha Jhatakia

You enter college with a major in mind and a plan to get a degree in it. You don’t let the fine print surrounding general education classes, major classes and GPA get in your way but you still may hit a snag or two. If this happens, seek out a counselor.

There is a difference between a general education (G.E.) counselor and a major counselor. A G.E. counselor is there to make sure you get your G.E.s done, have enough credits to graduate and have successfully completed all classes. A major counselor, on the other hand, will make sure you take all the classes you need to get your intended degree. Getting a degree and graduating are two very different things balancing on a fine line.

The assistance you get really depends on the counselor so meet with a few and select the one who “gets” you best. If you have a counselor who isn’t 100-percent sure of the university’s curriculum or graduation/degree requirements, switch as soon as you can; you don’t want to be filing your graduation petition only to realize you are missing a requirement! A good counselor will make it mandatory for you to meet with them a few times each semester to make sure you are on track. He or she will also help you with an education plan so that you know what is necessary to graduate. A great counselor will even recommend that you get a second opinion on his or her advice so don’t be afraid to do so.

You may have known what you wanted to major in forever but don’t let your pride get in the way of accepting some assistance. You’ll be better off for it even after you graduate...which you will, thanks to your counselor’s expertise!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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Obtaining Media the Legal Way

August 16, 2011

Obtaining Media the Legal Way

by Radha Jhatakia

So you’re listening to the radio and hear a song you like. What do you do? If you’re a college student, you probably turn on your computer and download the song sans payment. Not only is this method illegal (think: fines and jail time) but it can be even more detrimental if done from a campus Internet connection. Since a personal login is usually required when you use campus Internet, your online activity is easily tracked and documented. On top of stealing copyrighted material, you could also face consequences from your university such as expulsion.

So you’re probably wondering what to do about your music/movie situation now. Well, there are legal ways to obtain them while still managing your money! First, websites like Crackle and Hulu allow you to watch movies and television shows for free. You can also try e-Rewards, a site that lets you earn dollar points for taking surveys; for example, earn 10 points and you can redeem 10 promo codes for Blockbuster Express for free new movies.

Music lovers don’t have to look far for deals, either. Though the files won’t save to your computer, you can use YouTube, Pandora or Slacker Radio to listen to music whenever you want for free. Amazon has downloadable songs for as low as $0.69 during their deals as well as a feature that allows you to preview albums and download only the songs you like. There’s also iTunes, but that tends to be a bit more expensive. If you can’t afford to buy music, make deals with your friends to buy separate albums and share with one another. That way you can get the music you want legally...and maybe even expand your musical tastes!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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