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What to Do About a Negligent Landlord

by Kayla Herrera

I have tons of horror stories about roommates and housing but the one connective thread is an unprofessional landlord. While I can’t tell you why this problem is so prominent in many college towns, I can guide you on how to deal with it.

First, know your rights. Look up your state’s tenant laws and make note of them. In Michigan, a tenant has the right to withhold all or part of rent depending on the problem until the apartment is fixed. We’re not talking broken lights or chipped paint, though – think more along the lines of pests, unusable plumbing and no electricity.

Next, reread your lease. Whenever you sign a lease, make sure to 1. read it thoroughly and 1. get a copy. (My landlord didn’t even give me a copy of my lease and I had to email him several times to get it.) If the lease does not say anything about apartment fixes (it should), do not sign it until it’s amended. If the landlord complains, cite the tenant laws to support your case.

Lastly, be confident and remain firm in all dealings with your landlord, especially if the issue is detrimental to your health or living. For example, my neighbor has had bad plumbing since July but even after multiple complaints, the landlord hadn’t remedied the issue by October. She knew her rights, though, and together we sent the landlord an email stating she was moving out and he would be responsible for finding a replacement tenant...but not until the apartment was fixed. We also said if immediate action was not taken, we would call a health inspector (also due to persistent flying squirrel incidents in several apartments). Needless to say, the landlord agreed in a panic and we were able to avoid going to court over the matter – a mess we definitely didn’t need during midterm time.

If you follow these tips, even the worst landlord ever can be dealt with. Good luck, renters!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. 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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Cyber Monday Could Be a College Student’s Best Friend

by Jessica Seals

Waking up at 2 a.m. to stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for a store to open is a holiday tradition for some people. On the other hand, there are thousands of others who refuse to give up sleep to stand in a long line for an item that will sell out before they even get inside the store. That’s right: I’m talking about Black Friday and for those of you who are on tight budgets – aka almost all college students! – it may seem like this day is your only chance to get holiday presents at affordable prices...but it’s not.

After experiencing the fights over the most-sought after items every year on Black Friday, I decided to stop giving in to this “holiday” in favor of participating in Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). Retailers have noticed that the number of online purchases is steadily increasing; therefore, they put some of the same sale prices that can be found in stores online. This is great for college students because they can spend the day after Thanksgiving with their families instead of arguing with strangers. Win-win!

I have become a Cyber Monday proponent because I prefer to do all of my shopping from the comforts of my own home – far away from angry shoppers who try to snatch items from my cart while I am not looking. As store lines continue to grow longer and the televisions and game systems sell out even faster, Cyber Monday is becoming a more attractive option. I can almost hear sighs of relief from college students everywhere who are trying to juggle countless end-of-semester commitments!

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.


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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?


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Should You Take a Semester Off?

by Kayla Herrera

I have been attending college for about four years now and have never taken a semester off. The thought used to make me shudder – how could someone even think of taking time off from school?! – but after this semester, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Some of my friends took semesters off to travel and learn more about themselves, while others were lost and not sure what they wanted to do in life. Some have experienced the loss of a family member or friend and others fell so ill that it interfered with their everyday lives. But me? My situation has been a combination of flying squirrels, bad landlords, health issues and money problems. Stress from school has skyrocketed to its worst level ever and I am planning to take the summer off, since I cannot afford to withdraw from spring classes if I want to stay on track. (I did consider attending part-time but found it could create problems with financial aid.)

If you’re considering taking a semester off, do NOT just drop off the face of the Earth. Let your adviser know your plans and keep the lines of communication open so that the process of coming back to school is easier when you are ready to do so. You may be taking time off from school to destress but I’d also recommend doing something related to your major – picking up an internship/job, volunteering or studying for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE – to stay somewhat involved in your field.

Lots of college students take time off for one reason or another; if external factors are competing with school to the point where your grades are suffering, take a break – you’ll return to school more motivated to succeed.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. 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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Is Your Dream School Affordable, Too?

by Scholarships.com Staff

When an acceptance letter arrives from your dream college, your first instinct may be to scream, cry and jump on your couch with Tom Cruise-caliber flair. Feel free to give in to those urges – hey, you earned it! – but realize you will soon have to figure out how to pay for your education. Can you really afford this school, not only while you’re attending but after you graduate as well? A new list from Kiplinger says your dream school could be a reality after all.

The list, which rates how well colleges actually do in making themselves affordable, includes schools with students who graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt on average. The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise also weighed in, supplementing Kiplinger’s findings with data from the Institute for College Access and Success. Here’s what he found were the most affordable institutions based on the average amount of debt graduates carry:


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Exploring the History of Your College Town

by Katie Askew

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts but in 1885, a Minneapolis fish market owner named Robert Jones built a 2/3-scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Minneapolis. Longfellow never lived in the house because he died in 1882 but the city of Minneapolis now owns the house and after years of being used as a haunted mansion, it’s now basically a museum and information center. For an English major like me, this was a fantasy!

This is just one of the many historical sites and national parks in Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to find many types of free museums, historical locations and ancient legends right in your college’s town as well. You can use the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places to find sites like this in your area and most states also have a Historical Society that boasts free or inexpensive history-centered events near you. Even better, check out your dream school’s personal history! It’s always interesting to find out who the buildings are named after or other random facts your campus tour guide can’t tell you. (For example, the University of Minnesota has a heritage trail with markers that describe everything from the history of the campus architecture to university icons and famous alumni.)

Learning about the history of your city not only helps you to feel connected to the past but also helps you to be better informed about interesting occurrences that happened where you live, work, study and play. History is everywhere – you just have to actively seek it out!

Katie Askew is a sophomore 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, teaching and performing 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.


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Volunteering During the Holidays - Do It!

by Radha Jhatakia

The holiday season has arrived. We see decorations up everywhere and sales for the things we’ve coveted all year. We go to parties, have feasts of delicious holiday food and exchange gifts. It’s all very beautiful and spirited but there is a very realistic part of the holiday season that often gets overlooked.

When you pass by those beautiful decorations, how many of you notice there are people sitting on the sidewalk, not because they’re tired of shopping but because that is where they live? When you are at the register spending hundreds on gifts, how many think about those who barely have money to eat? I think ‘tis the season we college students start thinking of others!

With the current state of the economy, many people are unable to celebrate the holidays the way they would like so let’s spread our good fortune to those who don’t have as much. Most college students have an entire month off from school between semesters so do some good during that time! Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. These organizations are often short staffed during the holidays because of the amount of people that go in so they will be grateful for any time you can spare.
  • Organize a food drive and then help deliver the goods. You can also look into working with a charity that distributes food baskets for those who aren’t homeless but can’t afford holiday meals.
  • Give a gift to someone less fortunate if you can. Community centers set up toy drives during the holidays and some schools even have “Letters to Santa” programs where needy students share their holiday wish lists.

Making someone’s holiday even a little bit happier is easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of time and effort to give someone else the joy you are blessed to have.

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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Get Off the Couch with These Alternative Winter Break Plans

by Angela Andaloro

We powered past midterms, made it through Thanksgiving and are in the home stretch toward finals. That’s right, it’s the end of the semester and before you know it, winter break will be upon us. Many people go home to spend time with their family and friends, eager to veg and enjoy doing nothing.

Not everyone looks to do this with their break, however: If you’re feeling doing something radically different, here are just two awesome ideas...far, far away from your couch and/or reality television.

It’s usually during the coldest months of the year that we’re looking for a little bit of escape. While these options might not be how you were thinking of getting away, they can actually be better than what you had imagined. Spending the holiday season on a path to a better you could be the best gift you give yourself (not to mention those in need) this year!

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Create a College-Friendly Holiday Budget...and Stick to It!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s that time of the year again where we see festive decorations, cheerful people...and empty wallets. The holiday season can definitely take a toll on our bank accounts – not only do you have to buy gifts but you have to get formal wear for fun holiday events! Can it be done on a college budget? Hard to believe but it can!

First, know where and when to shop. Stores will sometimes offer seemingly large discounts on Black Friday but drop prices even more as the holidays draw closer. How do you know which sales you will save the most on? Well take a look at retailers’ websites to determine the prices and sales they usually have. If you see the percentage of the sales on "special shopping days" are the same as their usual Saturday sales, it’s not a deal! I know what stores I need to go to by doing a little research ahead of time, targeting what items I want and finding additional discounts online and in catalogs: Last year, I found a $99 jacket on sale for $19!

Also, think about making gifts – it’s the thought that counts after all! This year, I’m on a tighter budget so I’m going to make customized stockings. People love gifts that are handmade over something store-bought that might be exchanged. You can even fill the stockings will homemade treats; there are so many recipes for easy-to-make desserts online!

Just remember that the holidays are not about how much you spend. Shop only for what you need and give the rest from the heart. Enjoy the season, amazing food and great friends without going broke!

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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Federal Mandate Will Standardize High School Graduation Rates

by Alexis Mattera

High school graduation rates have been on the rise across the nation but are the numbers of mortarboard-tossing students truly accurate? Experts say a new approach to data calculation will reveal the truth.

A new federal mandate scheduled to take effect next year will standardize graduation rates by calculating the number of students who graduate high school in four years divided by the number of students who entered the school four years prior. This means states will no longer be able to count students who complete special education programs, night school, the GED and virtual high school programs along with those who earn a traditional high school diploma; when these students are removed from the equation, Chris West of Johns Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center estimates official national graduation rates will likely decrease between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Parents may be alarmed when they see the numbers fall but the standardization will do far more good than harm: West says it will level the playing field for high schools vying for federal money through the Race to the Top program – funds that will allow these schools to better prepare their students and further increase graduation rates. Do you think the graduation rate standardization will have a positive or negative impact? Is this a change that should have happened a long time ago or was the old way of reporting just fine?


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