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Conquering the Grocery Store

December 16, 2011

Conquering the Grocery Store

by Katie Askew

Graduating from freshman dorm life to sophomore apartment living has had its pros and cons. Although I gained more freedom, I lost luxuries like free laundry, a professionally-cleaned bathroom and meals made by a chef. My housing choice meant more financial responsibility – something I realized when I stepped into the grocery store for the first time as an apartment dweller. To keep my spending (and yours!) in check, I created a short list of tips for a college student’s first few trips to the grocery store.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s true: When I’m full, I focus only on the foods that are only on my list and I save a ton of money by avoiding impulse buys like giant jars of Nutella.

Plan a weekly menu and take a list. Decide what you’re going to eat on a weekly basis and create a grocery list that reflects this. Keep staples like bread, eggs, cereal and milk in mind but if you want to maintain a budget, it’s important to not stray from your list. If you need recipes for quick dinners, check out sites like Kraft or All Recipes: Just type in what ingredients you have and a meal will be generated for you!

Set a time limit. Saying you only have X minutes to shop will keep you focused on what you need, not what you want. This will also save time for homework or something fun later.

Find coupons. Purchasing a real Sunday newspaper is an excellent investment: Not only can you catch up on the news but you also gain access to lots of great coupons from local grocery stores. Dedicated coupon sites like CoolSavings or SmartSource are also helpful because they find deals based on your zip code.

I’m not saying you can’t splurge every now and then – after a rough week, ice cream is a necessity! – but by living like a student now, you won’t have to later in life!

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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Pell Maximum Maintained, Eligibility Tightened

by Alexis Mattera

The Federal Pell Grant program as we know it has been in jeopardy in recent years but an agreement reached last night will keep its funding intact. While college students will still receive the maximum award amount per year, the number of eligible recipients is a quite different (and unfortunate) story.

The Chronicle reported congressional leaders agreed on a spending bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by 1 percent, thereby maintaining the maximum Pell Grant amount of $5,550. To make this $300 million increase possible, however, eligibility for the award has been restricted. Under the bill, Pell Grant funding will only be available to each student for six years instead of nine, high school diplomas or GEDs will be required (no more ability-to-benefit tests) and the income cap for receiving an "automatic zero" expected family contribution will be lowered from $30,000 to $23,000. The interest subsidy on undergraduate student loans during the six-month grace period after a student graduates would also temporarily end.

Yes, the changes are significant but they are far less severe than an earlier bill which would have lowered the income cap to $15,000 and reduced the amount of income working students could exclude when applying for financial aid – changes that would have negatively impacted thousands of college students, especially those attending community colleges. We want to know what you think about the news. Is there a way to maintain federal funding without decreasing eligibility or do you think this bill is the best option?


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All I Want for College is...

Gifts to Help You Through the Rest of the School Year

December 21, 2011

All I Want for College is...

by Angela Andaloro

Winter break is top of mind for many college students right now and although it’s tough to imagine as we pack up our dorm rooms for a month away from campus, we’ll be back in class before we know it. We’re all aware of the expenses that go into being a college student – both in terms of academics and how we spend our time outside of school – and the holiday season is a perfect way to get some assistance on that front. Here are some items you can consider putting on your holiday wish list to make sure the second half of this school year goes smoothly!

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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Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

The Best Places to Sell Back Your Books

December 23, 2011

Goodbye, Textbooks - Hello, Money!

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the semester again and I’m sure as many of you are packing to go home, you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all those textbooks. Although there are some books you may want to keep, you’re going to want to sell most of them back and there are several ways to go about recouping some of the money you invested.

Many campus bookstores will buy back the book for 40 to 50 percent of the price you paid for it – used or new. If the edition is being updated, however, you might want to consider selling it elsewhere because your return will be much lower.

Online book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will buy textbooks back from you directly. Just recently, Amazon was offering $35 for a book I paid $45 for so I’d say it’s a very good deal. (They give you a free shipping label, too.) Amazon also lets you sell your books through their site to other students. The downside here is you will have to ship the book yourself, which will usually run more than the $3.99 fee Amazon charges, and Amazon takes 10 to 20 percent profit of what you make, including applicable tax and shipping fees.

You can list books on Craigslist or even around your campus. Put up a posting online or in your dorm and have students contact you if they need those textbooks.

There are ways to get money back for your textbooks but make sure to do it as soon as you can after the semester ends. You’ll get a better return this way – funds you can put toward next semester’s books!

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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And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

U.S. News Lists Schools with Lowest Average Debt for 2010 Grads

December 28, 2011

And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

by Alexis Mattera

If you are a recent college graduate, those student loans you haven’t thought about in four or more years are about to come calling...and collecting. While some students’ debt tallies are quite large, the amounts owed by others are much more manageable.

U.S. News & World Report has reported that the average amount of student loan debt (defined as money loaned to students from colleges, financial institutions and the government, not including parent loans) for a 2010 college graduate was about $25,000 but this number truly varies depending on what school a student calls his or her alma mater: For example, 2010 graduates of Alice Lloyd College have an average total indebtedness of only $3,108 and those from Princeton owe just $4,385, due in large part to more grants, scholarships and work study that do not require repayment. Here are all of the schools that made the top 10 and the average amount of student loan debt 2010 graduates incurred:

Does this information have you reevaluating your college plans or financial aid choices?


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Apartment Hunting? Follow These Rules

by Kayla Herrera

The start of a new year marks the time to seek an apartment for the fall semester. I know that’s the case at my school: Once the calendar turns to January in Houghton, Mich., students start climbing all over housing advertisements and residences are gone in no time. It really is a race here because in this rural town, affordable quality housing is limited. No matter where you attend college, there are some key things you should keep an eye out for when you tour a place you could potentially call home.

Noise. Ask about street noise or neighbor noise then take a listen for yourself to determine whether it’s too loud or too quiet for you. I lived on a main street once and when I moved to a quieter one, I could not sleep for a week because of the silence!

Mold or water damage. If there is a basement, look/smell for mold and search for wet spots or signs of flooding. Mold can bother allergies or make you sick and flooding could ruin your belongings; basements are prime locations for both to occur.

Pests. Keep your eyes peeled for chewed corners or holes in ceilings or walls. As I noted in a previous post, pests such as mice and squirrels can poop all over the place, eat your food, damage your apartment's structure and scare the daylights out of you. Do not move into a place with these warning signs unless the landlord promises to make repairs before you move in.

Maintenance. Make sure your landlord has a maintenance man or has offered you a phone number to reach him or her in case they handle the repairs. Trust me, no hot water plus hair covered in conditioner at 11 p.m. equals a not-so-fun extracurricular activity.

Be wary of everything from cleanliness to the neighborhood (nearby bars and hot spots mean there WILL be drunken singing at 2 a.m.). The race is on – good luck!

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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Good Samaritan Pays Student’s Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

It’s Friday the 13th and instead of posting some bad, unlucky or just plain weird news, we thought we’d share a story that’s downright feel-good.

Like many college students today, John Jay College criminology major Angy Rivera was having a difficult time making her tuition payments. While she was eligible for in-state tuition rates as an undocumented student, Rivera could not qualify for state and federal aid so she began selling what she called handmade education bracelets on Chipin.com to bridge the financial gap. When her tale was recently featured in the New York Daily News, retired MTA conductor Luis Hernandez took note – and action: He donated $2,500 to cover the remainder of Rivera’s tuition, even though she was a complete stranger. “I’m retired and I’ve got a little money to spend,” said Hernandez. “I like helping out kids...especially if it’s somebody trying to get an education.” Naturally, Rivera shed tears of joy and told Hernandez, “This just made my next six months – you don’t know how big this is!” She also said she will use the money generated from her bracelets sales to pay for books and fees.

Times may be tough but if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t too proud to ask for help, good things can happen.


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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was 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. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

The weather in Maine is far from balmy this time of year but did the chilly temps inspire the University of Maine’s approach to college costs? Probably not but it’s kind of fun to think so.

For the first time in 25 years, undergraduate tuition has been frozen at all seven campuses: Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland and Presque Isle. Vice Chancellor Rebecca Wyke said the decision was not an easy one for the University of Maine System Trustees and though the implementation will be equally difficult, the tuition freeze was necessary. "It's going to challenge the campuses because they're already facing a budget gap that they're going to have to close," Wyke said, but explained, "The board’s action is very consistent with where Maine family income is and it reflects their understanding of the difficult financial times that we're in."

UMaine students in the audience, what do you think of the news? Are you glad to be getting a tuition reprieve or do you think tuition increases – even slight ones – are necessary to maintain campus resources, course quality and the college experience overall?


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Majoring in an "Endangered" Field? You Still Have Options!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all read those articles that tell you what NOT to major in but what do you do if you're already majoring in one of the fields mentioned? Do you continue along the path you’ve chosen or start working toward a new goal that will cost more time and money to complete?

This is the dilemma facing architecture majors and the New York Times recently posted an article discussing how architecture majors are facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation (13.9%). Unsurprisingly, the housing market collapse has a lot to do with this and until our economy starts improving, the housing market (and the unemployment rate for those commissioned to design those houses) will likely stay where it's at.

But before all you architecture majors despair, remember that we will always need buildings. There may not be as great of a demand as there used to be but there are still plenty of job opportunities available, especially if you're willing to work in another country. From China to London and plenty of countries in between, there are lots of great options for up-and-coming architects abroad. China alone has dozens of positions available and some of them don't even require you to know Mandarin. Of course, if you've always wanted to learn Mandarin (or any other foreign language for that matter), what better way to do so than to live and work abroad? Of course, living abroad isn't for everyone and there are still employment options in the U.S. And the median salary for an architect is $55,248, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Whether you're an architecture major or a student trying to find a summer job, securing employment can be a daunting task. But as clichéd as it sounds, you will eventually find something if you keep looking. You may need to relocate in order to find what you're looking for but your hard work toward that college degree will pay off in the end.

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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