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Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you’ll have to start paying off your student loans sooner than you think. And even with the economy in a slump, don’t expect a free pass on not paying your loans. Are you starting to panic? Well, don’t! There’s a ton of advice out there to help students stay on track and courtesy of the U.S. News and World Report, here are seven tips for repaying your student loans.

  • Repay you student loans automatically. Make things easier on yourself by setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. This reduces the chance of late or missing payments.
  • Aim for 10 years. The traditional repayment period for student loans is 10 years and ideally you'll be able to pay off all your debt within that time period. If you end up struggling with your monthly payments, however, you could stretch out your loans to 20 or even 30 years. Your monthly payments will become more manageable but you will end up paying a lot more in interest.
  • Stay organized. Having multiple student loans can be a challenge to keep track of but with the government's National Student Loan Data System, you’ll be able to track all your federal student loans in one place.
  • Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first. A high interest rate costs you every month and compounds that amount you owe every month you aren’t paying off the entire balance.
  • Consider IBR. The IBR is a federal Income-Based Repayment program that allows a borrower to repay his or her federal loans based on what is affordable and not what is owed.
  • Keep abreast of student loan developments. Staying informed is just as important as making your payments. Familiarize yourself with websites that are devoted to college debt issues like Project on Student Debt and the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman. Sometimes your relationship with a lender can go belly-up. If you end up in a dispute, the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman may be able to help resolve the issue.

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Make Yourself Marketable This Summer

by Casandra Pagn

While a summer home from college should be relaxing, fun and regenerative, the three or so months away from school can also be the perfect time to bulk up the ever-elusive skills section of a resume or job application.

I totally understand that many college students need to take any ol’ job during the summer to save some cash for the school months. Whether you are waitressing, painting houses or mowing lawns, there are still a multitude of ways to continue to make yourself (and your resume) marketable during the summer.

First and foremost, internships (paid or unpaid) can often be tailored to the hours and schedule that you’d like to work. But, if an internship seems too time consuming, have no fear. Here are some other ways to make your summer count:

  • Contact local professionals to set up appointments to shadow them. This will give you some insight into that career and it’s something that you can bring up during future interviews to show you’re being proactive in that field.
  • Browse through your local park district or community college catalog and see what affordable, useful classes they offer. An introductory language course is a low time commitment and is a great asset to any resume, as are computer courses in a program that you’re not familiar with. At the end of the class, you will have learned the keys to a program that employers find valuable, such as Microsoft Excel or InDesign.
  • Borrow some how-to books from the library and teach yourself something! There are a ton of books on building websites and using graphic design programs, so why not take check one out and give it a try? It can’t hurt to learn those skills and the library membership is usually free.

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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Face It: In-Person Communication is Important

by Casandra Pagn

So many of us (myself included) feel safe behind the veil of technology. Whether it's a Facebook profile, ultra-organized email or Twitter, let’s face it: It’s much easier to be the person you want to be when you carefully craft it out and spell check it twice. You can appear any way you want to...as long as you don’t have to think on the spot. I'm not trying to say that having a solid grasp on social media isn't beneficial (it certainly is!) but even in a technology-driven world, face-to-face conversational skills are still important.

The majority of interviews – especially selective or final ones – are still conducted in person. For a successful in-person interview, communicating well with a prospective employer while still showing some of your personality is critical. That's the benefit of face-to-face communication: You can show that you are unique, relatable and ready to be hired all through the way you talk. It’s important to convey confidence in your abilities at an interview and much of that confidence can be exuded through clear, thoughtful speech. Even phone interviews require these skills, as employers won't be as responsive to someone who has a robotic voice or is reading from a script.

Strong conversational skills are key in networking, too. Your ability to schmooze with someone in your field of interest may be the way to meet someone else who can put in a good word for you for a job or recommend another contact who can help. When it comes to getting a job, any connections could lead to potential employment.

Don't think you're a skilled conversationalist? Don't worry...just put your down your BlackBerry and talk! Practice makes perfect so instead of texting today, try making a phone call. I know it sounds crazy, but a confident, articulate voice might help land you a job down the road.

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Chris Poshek

by Scholarships.com Staff

Hello everyone! I am really excited to be a virtual intern at Scholarships.com and look forward to writing for you and, in turn, hearing from all of you in the next few months. Here’s my story:

I began my college career at Alexandria Technical College and received my associate degree in applied science degree in computer voice networking. Unfortunately, I was laid off twice in the last three years in that field so I returned to school at Bemidji State University and am currently working toward a degree in early childhood education. Deciding on my major was easy: I have epilepsy and so does my daughter and in addition to working and attending college, I’ve been able to work with several non-profit foundations on some very rewarding projects. When I am not taking classes, I’m an outdoorsy person who loves to fish and hunt. I also am an avid sports fan, especially when it comes to my Minnesota teams. I also enjoy reading, listening to music, dancing and spending time with my family.

So, what will I write about on this blog? Well, the future of education seems to be taking learning online. I have some very useful experience in that area and this kind of education is far different than taking classes in a classroom. As a virtual intern for Scholarships.com, I look forward to helping college students seek out everything they need to make their time in school and their lives after college successful. Can’t wait to get started!


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Jobs That Didn't Exist Until Recently

by Lisa Lowdermilk

In today's technologically-evolving society, nothing is set in stone. Jobs that weren't even imaginable until the latter half of the 20th century (think: bloggers, computer programmers and web designers) have sprung up in droves. The rise of such fields has created many more degrees, leaving college students with more majors than ever to choose from.

One of these degrees is nursing informatics, which requires knowledge of – surprise! – nursing, information science and computer science. Another example is web programming, which teaches students how to program websites that are informative, unique and don't give their users the dreaded 404 error message. A third example is human computer interaction (HCI), which focuses on how technology affects both societies and individuals.

In all three of these fields, the added technological component means today's college students must devote more time learning than their predecessors. But don't be discouraged: Technology has made it easier than ever for nurses to diagnose patients, provide them with the treatment they need, access information relating to the patients’ medical histories and monitor their conditions. Additionally, web programming enables information to be distributed much more widely than print-restricted media, such as books, brochures and magazines. And HCI specialists analyze the interaction between humans and computers, so that every user's virtual experience is as painless and rewarding as possible.

Since our society continues to evolve by leaps and bounds technologically, there may be many more degrees available in the next few years that we haven’t even thought of yet. While some people may lament the loss of jobs to technology, just remember that many more have cropped up to take their places – a fact job seekers are more than happy to hear!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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You Are What You Tweet

How to Make 140 Characters Count

June 8, 2011

You Are What You Tweet

by Casandra Pagn

Twitter can be a great resource for checking the most up-to-the-date information in a conveniently streamed, easy-to-read manner. It can be your all-access pass to breaking news, celebrity gossip or a great tool for social networking.

Because of the character restrictions on tweets (140, to be exact), Twitter is meant to broadcast short, important information in a concise manner. There isn’t time to get bogged down with useless information because there simply isn’t space in the Twittersphere.

But how can Twitter help you market yourself, network and possibly land you a job? Here are some tips:

Be careful what you tweet. Even though you’ve only got 140 characters, it’s plenty of space for words or ideas that can cast a negative image of yourself. Don’t tell your tweeps (Twitter followers, for those not versed in social networking lingo) that you’re partying hard tonight or that you hate your economics professor. Instead, try retweeting a cool news story or writing about an awesome event happening on your campus.

Follow smart people. While no one is going to criticize you for following Perez, make sure you’re also following credible news sources, local leaders and people related to organizations on campus or affiliates from your school. This way, once you find out what the Kardashians are up to on Friday night, you can get back to reality quickly.

Use Twitter to spread the word. Twitter can be a great tool to get the word out because if you’re following the right people and they’re following you, you can broadcast your message to the masses. Try tweeting about a campus charity event or something that you’re involved in and passionate about. Use Twitter to promote your student organization or club’s events. Tell your tweeps where and when to be, and why they should help support!

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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Where to Work on Campus

by Kara Coleman

While many students have been working part-time jobs since they were in high school, others are juggling work and school for the first time. On-campus jobs make this transition easy, since your boss will be willing to work around your class schedule. Whether you live at home and commute to your college or you live in a dorm 3,000 miles from home, on-campus employment is available. Here’s just a sampling:

Bookstore Associate: Your school’s bookstore needs people to run cash registers, answer phones, stock shelves and help students locate books they need. This might be a good job for you year-round if your school offers summer courses.

Tutor: At the community college I attended, free tutoring is available to students through the Student Support Services office. Tutors are paid by the school and set their own schedules during the hours the office is open. This guarantees that tutors’ work schedules do not conflict with their class schedules. If your college doesn’t offer a tutoring program, consider starting a private tutoring business.

Ambassador/Tour Guide: My school offers scholarships to students who participate in the ambassador program. Ambassadors are expected to be present at career fairs and charity functions and give campus tours to prospective students. Find out if your college offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for ambassador or tour guide positions.

Campus Security: Some colleges let students work for the university police department. Duties may include directing traffic, inspecting grounds and buildings for safety, and assistance during emergency situations. This is a great opportunity for criminal justice and law enforcement majors...or anyone looking to keep their campus safe!

Student job opportunities vary from school to school – at some universities, the editor of the school newspaper is a paid position! – so visit your college’s website or ask your advisor about potential on-campus jobs for you.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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Why Liberal Arts Degrees ARE Useful

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With majors like engineering, computer science and nursing, there may not seem to be a whole lot of room for generalized majors like liberal arts. All of the aforementioned majors train you for a very specific field, whereas liberal arts degrees (which include philosophy, literature and history) don’t, making “What are you going to do with your degree?” one of the most common questions liberal arts majors are asked.

While it's true that the broadness of liberal arts degrees can make finding a job difficult, this broadness also presents more opportunities than many other degrees. According to the University of California at Davis, the skill most valued by employers is the ability to communicate effectively. This is to a liberal arts major's advantage, as their classes require a lot of writing, critical thinking and listening – all of which are crucial to effective communication. Along this same line, technologically-driven communication like texting and IMing has made our society increasingly reliant on “chat speak” and its disregard for grammar, punctuation, etc. Some people worry decent writers are becoming scarce but liberal arts degree holders lay these fears to rest.

Additionally, liberal arts majors are creative individuals. They’ve been forced to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and translate abstract information into concrete, easily understandable ideas. In today's ever-changing business world, problem solvers and innovators – two traits often held by liberal arts majors – are extremely valuable.

In sum, if you decide to major in a liberal arts field and worry you’ll lack the training for more specialized jobs, you can make up for it in your ability to think outside the box.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Finding a Summer Job Late in the Game

by Kayla Herrera

Spring semester ends and summer rolls in with its blossoming heat and sunny days. Summer classes are starting up, birds are gathering in trees to sing their summery tunes and some students are starting their job search...late.

I tend to start looking for a summer job in the early spring in order to secure a position but if you have a particularly demanding spring semester class schedule, you’re not going to get this kind of head start. In an injured economy, it’s difficult to find a job, especially in smaller college towns that are not located near metropolitan areas. Many businesses are often family-owned – there are lots in my college town – which usually eliminates anyone outside of the family for employment.

The best thing to initiate late in the job hunt is to check with your school. Ask around to see if there are any openings for summer help. The admissions office is a good place to start but dining services is also a great hidden opportunity. With the lack of summer students, your school will probably be looking for help. I joined up with a catering service through my school where I work weddings and class reunions and – get this – set my own hours.

The most important advice about any type of job hunting is that you cannot be picky. I cannot stress this enough. If you've got rent and bills to pay, you've got to make money somehow. Apply everywhere – gas stations, gift shops, restaurants, department stores – and if you’ve still got nothing, fast-food might have to be an option. At least fill out an application; you can always decline the offer if you find something else. With today's economy, cash-strapped college students can’t afford to cherry pick. The race is on, time is ticking and money is waiting to be made.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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College: The Ultimate Life Lesson

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many things I wish I knew before I started college...or even a year or two in! Tips about what professors are difficult, what dining halls serve the best food and where to find the dorms with the most square footage are quite often available but the biggest tip – which you won’t realize until you’re done with school – is that college itself teaches you how to get by in life.

The process begins before college with the prep work you do. You take six classes a semester in high school when during college you take three to five classes depending on the semester or quarter system. You take the SAT or ACT, which test your ability to take a test itself, not your intellectual abilities. You participate in every extracurricular possible to make your transcripts appealing, only to realize that those activities won’t really matter on campus. All of these tasks are tests: In college, you’ll spread yourself thin between a job, challenging classes, clubs and your social life but thanks to your prep work, you’ll know how to balance it all.

Once you’re on campus, college prepares you for the obstacles and struggles that await everyone after graduation. You’ll take engineering courses, biology labs and communications lectures and complete projects and papers to gauge how well you can apply the material you’ve learned and tight deadlines to help you to think on your feet. Whether you’re finding a way to pay off student loans or trying to secure a job in your field, those seemingly small assignments you completed in college will have prepared you to deal with the real world.

You’ll gain a lot from your college experience – friends, memories, knowledge – but most importantly is your degree, a testimony that you will be able to make it in life beyond those hallowed halls.

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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