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Staying Stylish on a College Budget: It's Not Hard!

by Melissa Garrett

Whether you dread clothes shopping or can’t wait to go back to school in style, there’s no denying that new clothes can put a serious dent in your budget. Although college students can spend small fortunes on their new fall wardrobes, they definitely don’t have to: Clothing happens to be one of the easiest categories to cut back your spending if you know where to go.

While some people may turn up their noses at the thought of shopping at Goodwill or other second-hand stores, they can actually be great places to find brand names at very low prices. Just recently, I bought some clothes that included a Lip Service dress and tops from Express and Loft among other popular stores...and I walked out of the store having paid less than $20 for all of my new clothes, some of which didn’t even appear to have ever been worn. I am very picky about what I wear (I usually prefer black) and even I manage to find several items each time I visit a second-hand shop.

While shopping at thrift stores is fantastic, you must buy with skepticism as you would at any store. Don’t load up your shopping cart just because the items are cheap – prices add up and if you are careless, you may end up spending as much money as you would have at a department store! Remember that items have been owned before so check garments for any defects before purchasing. Also, don’t forget that a pair of fabric scissors can work wonders: Don’t be afraid to get a cheap, plain top and alter it yourself to make it an original.

All of this saved money can really benefit college students throughout the school year. More money in the bank means bigger budgets for textbooks, school supplies and fun...and who DOESN’T need a nice day out with friends after a hard week of studying? The better you learn to balance your budget, the more often you will be able to feel guilt-free treating yourself to a study-free weekend.

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.


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Obama Signs Student Loan Deal

by Kevin Ladd

There has been a lot of talk around student loan rates over the last few months, or even the last year or two, depending on how closely you've been listening. With the rising cost of higher education and the harsh reality that most students will need to take out loans to finance at least a portion of their education, federal student loan rates are a concern for many of us. Recently, President Obama signed a student loan deal to bring rates back down from the 6.8% to which they doubled on July 1st, when Congress failed to act before the deadline. Basically, the legislation is connecting student loan interest rates to the financial markets. This offers lower rates this fall because the government can borrow money relatively cheaply at this time and is far better than the 6.8% it has been for the last several weeks.

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The Perks of Joining the Military After High School

by Carly Gerber

Are you stressing out because you don’t know how you are going to pay for a college education? Joining the military is one way to help you pay for college and build your resume.

After high school, Richard Coughlin decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard because they would pay for his college education and provide many benefits such as health care. Coughlin was enlisted from September 2006 until September 2012 but he chose to extend his service for two years and thinks of his time in the military as a very positive experience. Coughlin spent most of his service in Hawaii, where he trained and took classes that were transferred to his current university. According to Coughlin, military members who complete their service feel lost and confused because they weren’t proactive about their next step; however, the Veterans Affairs office at one university was extremely helpful at transferring college credit hours and guiding Coughlin through the process of attending a university, which is why he chose to attend the school he will one day call his alma mater.

Also, since Coughlin was enlisted with the Coast Guard, he was able to get a job as a dolphin trainer as soon as his service was completed. Normally, a dolphin trainer needs either a bachelor’s degree or a certificate but the process was quicker for Coughlin because he had experience from the Coast Guard. The G.I. Bill requires the military to pay for veterans’ college tuition, books, and room and board, but Coughlin has money from dolphin training that can be used towards personal expenses.

Though he initially joined the Coast Guard to help pay for college, Coughlin believes that his service has helped him land a job and taught him respect and independence he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Have you considered joining the military before attending college?

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!


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Deciding Between On- and Off-Campus Employment

by Melissa Garrett

Getting a job in college can be a good opportunity for students in financial need, taking off tuition charges or putting more spending money directly into their pockets. Although choosing a job can be a stressful decision, one of the biggest issues comes from deciding between on- or off-campus options. There are upsides and downsides to both but fortunately, it is not too hard to find out which employment choice is better for you.

On-campus jobs are definitely convenient, as they require little traveling time and transportation. Students without cars can greatly benefit from being able to walk to their job within a matter of minutes. If a student decides to do a work-study, then they may get to pay less in college costs; however, campus jobs for one’s own profit are often in short supply after work-study students have gotten their jobs. If it’s money in your pocket that you are looking for, then on-campus jobs might not be as practical.

Earning money that can be put in the bank is always a good idea and the money earned at an off-campus job can be put towards college costs just as funds from a campus job or work-study can. Bosses at jobs off-campus are sometimes less understanding of a student’s college schedule but this can often be worked out with one’s employer since businesses surrounding college campuses get many student applicants. There is also the matter of transportation, which can be an issue for students without their own cars.

Whether you decide to work on or off of your college campus, finding one isn’t really that difficult. For jobs at school, consult an on-campus career counselor who can guide you in the right direction; you can also check with your department head for a major-related position. Otherwise, search around campus for nearby shops and restaurants – if you take the time to walk in and ask for an application, the result could prove quite beneficial to your college experience!

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.


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The Three Things You Absolutely Need In Your Dorm Room

by Abby Egan

When I started living at school, it became very clear to me that there are certain things that you absolutely need in the residence halls. Every person is different but the three main items that I found were impossible to live without were a fan, a surge bar and a hidden stash of cash. Here's why:

  • Fan: The September heat is killer in dorms without AC, plus cramped rooms can get stuffy from stale air after a while. A fan will get things moving so your room doesn’t begin to take on the smell of your overflowing laundry basket of dirty clothes.
  • Surge Bar: If you're anything like me, you own tons of electronic technology that need to be charged/plugged in/juiced up on the daily. Many schools (mine included) don't allow the use of extension cords because of the fire/tripping hazards so surge bars are a great alternative. Grab some extra-long ones to keep your room hazard-free and avoid arguments with your roommate when it comes to sharing the outlets.
  • Secret Cash Stash: Money is a foreign concept to most college students because they have such a hard time keeping any in their pockets between loans, bills and late night pizza orders. At the beginning of each year, take the time to find a safe hiding spot in your room to stash a little emergency cash. If your room comes with a safe or a lockable drawer, put the cash in there where it won’t be easily accessible...though rolled up in a pair of socks in the back of your dresser is just as safe. You may trust your friends but keep the location of your stash a secret just to be on the safe side. You never know when you may need it!

What are YOUR dorm must-haves?

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.


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Becoming a Commuter Student

September 5, 2013

Becoming a Commuter Student

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.


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How to Become a Student Leader

September 6, 2013

How to Become a Student Leader

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.


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Your Guide to On-Campus Living

September 4, 2013

Your Guide to On-Campus Living

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.


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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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by Suada Kolovic

High school students, as you move further into your senior year and really start making decisions that will shape your future – what college you'll attend, how you'll fund this endeavor and what you’ll possibly major in – it dawns on you: “OMG, I’m officially an adult.” And with that realization comes the fact that very soon, you'll no longer (legally) be the responsibility of your parents. Well, not everyone is willing to accept that as their reality: A New Jersey teenager who was financially cut off following her 18th birthday is suing her parents for immediate support, current private school fees and future college tuition.

For months, Rachel Canning has been living with the family of her best friend and classmate, Jaime Inglesino, whose father, attorney John Inglesino, is bankrolling Rachel's lawsuit. Rachel, an honor student who plans on becoming a biochemical engineer, has asked the court to order her parents to pay an overdue $5,306 bill from Morris Catholic High School, finance her living and transport expenses, and grant her access to an existing college fund. Her father, Lincoln Park town administrator and retired police officer Sean Canning, says that his daughter would not abide by a set of household rules and was therefore cut off financially. "She's demanding that we pay her bills, but she doesn't want to live at home. We're heartbroken, but what do you do when a child says, 'I don't want your rules, but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it?'" (For more on this story, click here.)

While it's not unheard of for young adults to take legal action against their parents, what do you think Rachel's case? Should parents be financially responsible for their child's college education? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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