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Off-Campus Housing Advice for College Freshmen

Aug 22, 2011

by Jessica Seals

College freshmen have several things to be excited about. They have finally gotten out of high school and now have the chance to go off to college where they will feel more independent. One of the most exciting things about going off to college is getting to live in the dorms. Living in the dorms is somewhat similar to having your own apartment but most dorms still have rules that you must live by. Although dorm life excludes parental supervision, some freshmen still opt for an off-campus apartment. They feel as though they cannot share a tiny space with a stranger or that a dorm still has just as many restrictions as living at home. While there can be perks to having your own apartment (more personal space and not having to worry about sharing your belongings, for example), there are still issues you may encounter.

While living on campus, it’s much easier to be on time to class because the only travelling you have to do is walking. When living off campus, you will have to wake up and leave your apartment much earlier in order to beat traffic, find a parking space and walk to class. This can be overwhelming to someone who is not used to going to college classes and has limited time management experience.

Another problem that freshmen who have to pay their own rent run into is working obsessively to pay for their apartments. If you do this, your grades will begin to slip and you run the risk of being too tired to go to class because you have to work long hours – not a great way to begin your college career!

Although living off campus can help you become more independent, some freshmen enter the situation without a good plan. If you’ll be living off campus as a freshman, make sure your plan includes ways to manage time so that you are not constantly late to or absent from class, and can balance your work and school schedules. You can be successful in having your own apartment during your freshman year if you are mentally prepared for the challenge!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

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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Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

Aug 22, 2011

by Alexis Mattera

If you think college textbooks have been in the news more than usual lately, you’re right: Classes are starting up again at many college campuses and students are looking for any ways they can to keep their college costs in check. When it comes to books, there are plenty of options to do so without skimping...but between work, interning and moving in, do you have the time to research each individual option to find the best deal? Yes, actually, you do.

The amount of textbook options available to students today is staggering – new, used, rent, digital, rent digital – but students trying to get the most bang for their educational buck now have some much-needed assistance, the Chronicle reports. For example, Amazon (which recently launched its own digital textbook rental service) has created Amazon Student, a free iPhone application designed to help students compare book prices on Amazon as a whole via barcode snapshots. There’s also BookSavr.com, a site formed by two Yalies in the vein of Kayak and Orbitz: The site shows prices from a variety of retailers – online, the campus bookstore and other physical booksellers close to the school's New Haven campus – all in one place.

Not to be outdone, nearly 100 campus bookstores have added research features to their sites through the Harvard graduate-created Verba. Similar to BookSavr.com, Verba displays prices for books at the store, on Amazon, on Half.com, through rental programs, etc. Some campus stores even include signs on each shelf reminding smartphone-wielding customers about the online comparison tool.

Have you had the opportunity to try any of these options when buying your textbooks? We’d love to hear firsthand feedback!

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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Stress-Free Study Time? It DOES Exist!

Aug 19, 2011

by Kara Coleman

Does it ever seem to you like each one of your professors thinks that theirs is the only class you have to do homework for? How do you give each subject the attention that it needs? These tips may help you out:

Set study goals for each day. Set a schedule based on amount of work and not on time. Don’t say, “Today I’m working on my essay for an hour and a half,” because an hour can quickly get away from you. Instead, say, “Today I’m writing the rough draft for my essay.”

Don’t skip the intros. Reading the chapter introductions in each of your textbooks can help speed up the note-taking process. Since intros tend to hit the highlights of each chapter, go ahead and write down anything that looks like it may be important. Also, having a basic understanding of a chapter’s overall content will help you when you dig deeper into the material.

Pay attention in class. You’re probably thinking, “I already know that!” but sometimes teachers will tell you when certain material is going to be on a test. If your teacher says that a piece of information is important, be sure to make a note of it or highlight it.

Don’t beat yourself up if you forget something. Obviously, there’s no way you can remember everything you hear. But that’s okay! Every time you forget something, your brain has to re-learn it. This reinforcement will actually help you retain information for longer periods of time.

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.

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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Four Tips to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

Aug 19, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like just yesterday that your kid was, well, just a kid, asking for a ride to the movies and throwing a tantrum on the floor. Now your child has walked across their high school stage, tossed that mortarboard in the air and is heading for college in the fall. If this is the first child you’re sending off, it’s normal to be apprehensive about letting go but remember, this is their moment. College is a time for them to discover who they are and figure things out for themselves. That being said, you can help financially prepare your student for college. Check out the four tips from U.S. World and News Report on finding the balance between supplying enough funds and when letting your child struggle is okay:

  • Don’t deposit and dash: Some parents might opt to supply their student with extra spending money for the upcoming school year but it has the potential of backfiring almost instantaneously. If you’re doling out a year’s worth of funds without a framework about budgeting, they’ll be calling for pizza money by October. Take the time to discuss the importance of month-to-month budgeting and understanding the reality of unexpected expenses.
  • Embrace – and limit – financial slip-ups: Once you’ve discussed a budget, step out of the process and leave it up to your child to make it work, recommends clinical psychologist Jerry Weichman. "One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they're adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes."
  • Encourage financial freedom: Having your child work in college is a great way to lower the potential of student loan debt as well as understanding the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Allow your child to allocate earnings, providing them the opportunity to make a connection between money earned and money spent.
  • Utilize web resources: Letting go might be easier said than done, but neither you nor your student need to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. A bevy of financial aid resources is just a click away. Check out Scholarships.com for tips on everything from balancing work and college and where to work on campus to money management skills and tips for going on a budget diet.

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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A "Beyond" Helpful Campus Shopping Guide

Aug 18, 2011

by Anna Meskishvili

Anyone who has ever seen the movie “Click” can think back to the opening scenes when Adam Sandler is at Bed Bath & Beyond. Walking into this massive space of shelves, vacuums, table settings and rugs can be beyond overwhelming (see what I did there?) but here are some pointers on managing your pre-frosh trip to this and other home supply utopias.

Storage. Four words: Under-the-bed containers. These plastic trunks can hold up to one season’s worth of clothes...and I invested in three! But what if you have a lofted bed – the bunk bed type with a desk underneath? Purchase a few Space Bags to minimize the space used for clothes you don’t need and hang them in your closet. I am still trying to wrap my mind around how they can make a down comforter the size of a magazine but they do!

Hygiene. It’s shocking how easily a small space like a dorm can become completely filthy so if there is one thing you MUST walk out with from any home goods store, it’s a Shark Vacuum. These wild things are small, won’t take up living space and clean carpets like no other. Also, don’t forget a shower caddy! You do not want to be that girl who realizes she forgot her conditioner while already in the shower.

Dining In. There will be nights where you will opt out of going to the dining hall in favor of a fancy microwave dinner. Warning: Back away from the kitchenware section! You do not need fine china for your dorm room; invest in only a few plates, bowls, forks, knives and spoons. They’ll be perfect for cereal in the mornings and leftovers at midnight – just make sure everything is microwave safe!

Moving into your first dorm is a really fun experience but pack your cart wisely. Those $2.99 knickknacks can add up – buying only what you need saves money, space and stress!

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a degree in public relations at the College of Communication and hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it. She is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She loves to travel, run and learn.

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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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

Aug 18, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?

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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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

Aug 18, 2011

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

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.

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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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question on a Campus Tour

Aug 17, 2011

by Katie Askew

Visiting a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming so it’s important to do a little research both before and during your visit.

Most colleges will show you a residence hall during your visit but before you get to campus, check out their housing site online. Take a look at the different options you have for housing (dorms, apartments, etc.) so you have a little background on the types of amenities offered. Also, don’t be fooled by the residence hall you are shown on your tour because it may be the best of the best...and potentially unreachable for you. Ask your tour guide what this hall is like in comparison to others and if it’s only available to certain students (freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, athletes, etc.).

With that in mind, ask your tour guide any questions you have about the school you may call your alma mater one day! It makes the visit more personal and relaxes the tour guide (trust me, we’re more nervous than we look!). The guides have lived in the residence halls, they have taken classes and they obviously know what campus life is like. Ask them what they do on the weekends and what their schedules are like during the semester. Getting an idea of what real campus life is like first-hand from a student can help you decide if this is the school for you.

My work behind the scenes in UM's Office of Admissions has shown me all the wrong things I did while touring college campuses as a high school senior but what I regret most is not asking questions. I don’t know if I was too shy or if I thought I was too cool but either way, I was silent during my visits. In hindsight, I realize that I could have learned so much more if I just opened my mouth! Learn from my mistakes and make the most out of your campus visits.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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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Student Soldiers: Attending College While Serving in the Military

Aug 17, 2011

by Thomas Lee

With its proximity to Fort Bragg and its extensive ROTC program, Methodist University could be considered in many ways an “army school.” Because of this, a number of Methodist students were non-traditional – soldiers who were stationed on base or local residents who attended classes at night.

I certainly respect but do not envy the life of a soldier. Not only must many of them balance classes and family life, but a military career is considerably more difficult than an office job. They must be in peak physical condition and reliably meet the demands of their commanding officers, as well as other supervisors both on and off base. Their usual days can be exhaustive, with schedules consisting of morning training and exercises, day classes, personal errands, night classes and then family duties. Since my time at Methodist, I have gained a greater respect for soldiers and military families and all they manage to accomplish.

There are practical benefits to being a student soldier. Depending on one’s status, the U.S. government may pay most – if not all – tuition costs. Soldiers and their families also have medical and dental care provided by the military. Attaining a degree while in the service may mean a pay increase or advance in rank. Despite experiencing difficulties the average college student will not face – imagine being in class one morning and receiving deployment orders that night – all of the student soldiers I met had one thing in common: They were deeply proud to be part of the military and of having been able to faithfully serve their country.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.

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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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

Aug 17, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.

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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Obtaining Media the Legal Way

Aug 16, 2011

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.

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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