With the total student loan debt in the United States hovering around a mind-blowing $1.23 trillion, it’s important to be smart about budgeting and managing your money while you’re in school so you’re not one of the 43 million Americans drowning in student loan debt.
Creating and managing a budget isn’t the most fun in the world, but it’s not as much of a hassle as you might think, either. Plus, it’ll help you stay on track during school and avoid graduating with heaps of debt.
For starters, you’ll want to figure out whether you want to track your budget per month, per academic semester (or year), or per calendar year. Once you’ve chosen a timeframe for your budget, you’ll want to decide what tool or tools you want to use to track it. You could go old school with pen and paper, or you might opt for using a computer spreadsheet, or maybe your phone is your life and you’d prefer to use a budgeting app. Georgia’s Own BALANCE Financial Fitness program offers free resources to help with budgeting, and we’ve also created an budgeting spreadsheet to help you track your income and expenses (download it for free here). I personally love Mint – it’s simple to use, secure, and automatically updates all of my accounts in one place. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a tool you’re comfortable with and one you’ll actually use.
Here’s what you’ll need to create your budget:
- Your income: Be sure to include all sources of income, including wages, any financial aid refund, and any contributions from family.
- Your expenses: Expenses include fixed expenses like your cell phone or rent, as well as variable expenses such as dining out or gas for your car (if you have one). For your initial budget, you may have to estimate some expenses until you have a better idea of how much you spend on that category.
The next step is adding up your income and your expenses so you can balance your budget. To do this, you’ll subtract your total monthly expenses from your total monthly income. The goal is to have a positive balance, meaning you’re earning more than you’re spending. If you have money left over each month, you can save it or even start paying on your student loans (if you have any), since they do accrue interest while you’re in school. (Read more about why paying on your loans while in school is a good idea).
If your balance is negative, you’re spending more than you’re earning and need to adjust your budget. You can cut back on expenses or find a way to supplement your income, such as getting a second job.
Now that you’ve created and balanced your budget, there are two more important steps in maintaining that budget:
- Review your budget monthly – doing so will help you stay ahead and avoid surprises.
- If you make a spending mistake, don’t dwell on it. Next time you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase, ask yourself if you really need that item and if so, can you afford it?
Developing good financial habits in college (or earlier) not only helps you cut down on student loan and credit card debt acquired throughout school, but also helps sets you up for success later on in life. Trust me – things like credit scores and savings accounts may seem trivial now, but it’s a lot easier to start off strong than to find yourself in heaps of debt after school and trying to correct mistakes that could have easily been avoided.
The cost of going to college continues to increase year after year and it’s not strictly tuition that is rising. Housing, food and entertainment prices are also increasing which means figuring out ways to cut some of those costs is of the utmost importance. If you’re living away from home for the first time and you fail to handle your expenses while in school because you’ve never learned to manage money intelligently, college can be a time of worry, debt and increasing financial difficulty. Here are some hidden costs you may not associate with college:
Room and board in a dorm can cost more than $1,000 a month and rent at an apartment can be just as much. Living on campus may look more expensive at first, but you’ll be provided many services you wouldn’t receive off campus, such as utilities and furnishings. You may find cheaper alternatives off campus and if you have a roommate or two, you’ll be able to split many of the expenses. Each school has varying costs, so be sure to research the particulars before deciding.
Meal plans on college campuses can get quite expensive and more than likely, you won’t be able to eat what you pay for. If you have a kitchen available, try cooking your own meals. Also, many organizations on campus offer free food, so take advantage of those. While it’s fun to eat out when you’re on your own, limit the number of times you visit a restaurant. Take advantage of restaurant.com and Groupon to enjoy savings for dining out.
Let’s face it, we know you’re not going to be studying 24/7, though you may say you will. A night out with friends, tickets to support your team and sorority and fraternity dues add to your budget. Other daily expenses like TV, internet and a cell phone can fall into this category as well. Try getting a job to supplement these expenses or dial back on attending every single event.
Having a car during your college years can be advantageous when you need to get places, but it can also come with a few unexpected expenses. Parking passes on campus can add up quickly, even if you don’t park there on a daily basis. If you live on campus, take advantage of transportation provided by the school. If you must have a vehicle, look to supplement parking costs by getting a gas-friendly vehicle and get the best loan rates available to you.
Equipment for Class
Textbooks are essential to be successful in college. Some classes, however, have additional books or a piece of equipment that’s not “required,” but if you don’t have it, you’ll be in a tough predicament. Reduce your textbook budget by buying used books or purchasing e-books if available. Lab equipment may be more difficult to cut costs on, so just make sure to plan ahead by researching each class.
While on campus or attending events, you may need some cash on hand so you’ll have to hit up an ATM. If you’re not smart about which ATM you use, you could be paying extra just to get your money. With Georgia’s Own having over 85,000 Surcharge-Free ATMs, you can avoid those fees.
Another way to get extra savings while in college is to take advantage of any scholarships that you can, such as the Georgia’s Own What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship. This scholarship application process opens at the first of each year and is available to all members 25 and under attending college.
You can find even more ways to save during college by visiting our blog!
If you’ve yet to submit your application for the 2015 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship, time is running out! The deadline to enter is May 1, 2015 and don’t forget that we’re awarding bigger prizes this year! With $15,000 to distribute, we’re giving $8,000 to the top recipient, $5,000 to second and $2,000 to the third-place winner.
Paying for college can be a daunting obstacle, but this scholarship is an awesome opportunity to put you on track to covering those costs! To find out more info on the requirements, check out the video below. To get started on your application click here!
With spring break approaching, now is a great time to plan an inexpensive vacation or staycation for your family. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your spring break planning.
1. Set your budget. To keep from overspending that may strain your finances, sit down and establish a budget. Also, be sure to set a realistic budget. While that trip to Disney World may be what you have in mind, only do it if it’s possible. If it’s not in the budget this year, plan ahead for next year and start saving towards it now.
2. Search for special offers. Companies like Groupon or Living Social have getaway deals that just might work for you. Let the internet be your friend! And who knows, you may find a location that you never thought you’d visit.
3. Think about alternate lodging options. Vacation rentals or private homes are great options that may be cheaper than a hotel. Websites like VRBO and HomeAway are great sites to browse for these options. One benefit is that most of these rentals have kitchens which allow you to cook your meals versus going out to an expensive restaurant every meal.
4. Volunteer. Instead of spending money heading out of town, look for ways to volunteer with your family around your community. Not only will you be doing a good deed for others, it will be a special bonding time that you’ll be able to share with your family. It’s a win-win for all involved!
Sources: U.S. News & World Report
Most college students will have to take out some type of financial aid to complete their degree, and it is hard to emphasize enough the lasting impact that student loan debt can have. Doing your research and making wise choices early on can end up saving you years (literally) of financial heartache.
So where to begin? For starters, make sure to fully exhaust scholarship and grant opportunities. This is free money and obviously, the less to pay back, the better! Then, apply for government student loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and obtain as much subsidized aid as possible, followed by unsubsidized loans. If you find that you still need financing, look for a private lender (such as Georgia’s Own Credit Union) that will offer a low rate.
A great resource to help you sort through all of this is CU Student Choice, who works with Georgia’s Own to help provide private student loans. Don’t let gaps in federal funding keep you from getting your education. Our Student Choice private lending program provides the additional funds you need and features you want. With zero origination fees, lower rates and flexible repayment terms, it’s definitely a better way to pay for college. Head over to the site to find a few more resources and to apply for your private student loan today.
Deciding to attend college is one thing, but choosing which college to attend is a big decision. Many students make the mistake of waiting until their senior year to prepare for and select a college, but the sooner you can get started, the better. There are multiple factors that must be considered when picking a school.
Types of Colleges/Universities
One of the first things you need to know is the difference between the many types of colleges and universities that exist so that you’ll have a better understanding of the school you would like to attend. Colleges and universities are different things. Usually they are all lumped together as “College”, but there is a difference. In general, a college offers education in one specific area, while a university is a collection of colleges. When you go to a university, you attend one of their colleges, such as the business college or college of engineering. Universities are often larger and offer more majors and degree options (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees). Also, some colleges/universities are public and others are private. We’ll help you sort through the basic types.
Public Colleges and Universities
Public colleges and universities are funded by state governments to give residents of each state the opportunity to receive a public education. Class sizes and the number of degrees offered are usually larger. At public universities, class sizes can sometimes reach 200 students. In-state students applying to their public colleges or universities are admitted in far greater numbers and pay lower tuition than students applying from out-of-state.
Private Colleges and Universities
Private colleges and universities don’t receive funds from state legislatures and rely heavily on tuition and private contributions which generally means tuition rates are higher. At private colleges, class sizes are typically smaller and access to professors is much easier. State residency isn’t a major factor at private colleges as tuition remains the same for all students.
Four-Year and Two-Year Colleges
Four-year colleges offer programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree in four years. These include universities and liberal arts colleges. Two-year colleges offer programs that last up to two years and lead to a certificate or associates degree. These include community colleges, vocational-technical colleges and career colleges.
Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities
Literature, history, languages, mathematics and life sciences are some of the courses offered at liberal arts schools. Most are private and offer four-year programs that earn a bachelor’s degree.
Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees that prepare you to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. They also offer other associate degrees and certificates that focus on preparing you for a certain career. They are an affordable option with typically lower tuition.
Vocational-Technical and Career Colleges
If you’re looking for specialized training in a particular field or industry, vocational-technical and career colleges may be for you. Culinary arts, medical-records technology, hair-styling and dental hygiene are possible programs of study.
Arts colleges offer specialized training in areas such as music, theater or fashion design in addition to traditional course work. Most of these offer associate or bachelor’s degrees in the fine arts or specialized field. These colleges usually offer certificates or associate degrees.
For-Profit Colleges and Universities
For-profit colleges are educational institutions that are operated by private, profit seeking businesses, and typically prepare students for a specific career. Many are online, but some have physical locations as well. For-profit colleges have no entrance requirements and give you more flexibility with your schedule (great for parents or people currently employed). Some disadvantages include questions with accreditation for online schools as some of your credits earned may not transfer to another institution and negative association with some employers towards online degrees.
Paying for School
Planning ahead for the cost of college sounds like a daunting task. If you’re lucky enough, your parents may have already started the process with a college savings plan (for any parent who may be reading, start saving as soon as you can, even if it’s just a little at a time – every little bit helps). But, if you’re like a lot of young people, you’re going to have to figure out how to cover the costs of an advanced education on your own. With the average student debt for the class of 2013 at $29,400 according to CNNMoney, the best advice for students is to begin saving and preparing as early as possible. If you don’t have a way of earning income, try getting a job in the summer or after school. Saving just $50 a month can become $600 in savings that can go a long way towards paying for college.
Another option to pay for school is through scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships available from academic to athletic scholarships. Don’t worry however, if you’re not a star athlete or at the top of your class academically, there are still plenty of scholarships available. Start by looking at local companies and institutions (such as Georgia’s Own) and then move your search to the internet. Scholarships.com has a large database of available scholarships that you might be able to win.
If you don’t receive enough money through scholarships and are still short, student loans can help fill the remaining void. Millions of students rely on student loans to pay for some or all of college, so you won’t be alone. When searching for financial assistance, you should always start with scholarships and grants, which cost you nothing and do not have to be repaid. Once you have minimized how much you’ll have to borrow through scholarships, grants, and savings, you can begin applying for student loans.
Knowing what you’ll be paying to attend a college or university plays a huge factor into what type of school is right for you and where you’ll be attending. Once you start thinking about possible destinations, you’ll want to research everything from tuition (in-state vs out-of-state) and room & board to books, school supplies other fees associated with each school. A great place to get started on this research is: http://collegecost.ed.gov/scorecard/index.aspx.
Some colleges have certain ACT or SAT score requirements or specific course requirements, so be sure to research those well in advance. If you wait until your senior year, it may be too late to take the required courses or you may discover that your scores aren’t high enough to meet their standards. During your junior year, try to pick out a few colleges you think you may want to attend so that you’ll give yourself enough time to insure you’ve done enough to get into those schools. It may require that you take tougher courses such as advanced math and science. If you take a solid high school curriculum, not only will it help with admission, but college course work will be an easier transition.
The Harry Potter series, fantasy football advice columns, text messages, this article: there are few things in modern life as pervasive as the written word. Chances are, you may have to utilize the elusive craft of writing some time in the near future to further your academic or professional goals. Whether you’re constructing the foreboding college essay, an overwhelming term paper, or an imperative cover letter, i[x] is here to offer you tips from a variety of experts.
Thought of by many to be a source of tremendous stress, the college application essay can actually be a fun, introspective exercise in personal analysis. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, it’s more important to avoid a “common” essay than a poor one. Writing to impress a stranger often leads to stale, overdone content. In order to create a unique, engaging piece, you need to find subject matter that is specific to your life’s experience. Have you overcome a significant obstacle in you life? Has your perspective evolved during your years as a high school student? Do you have a specific goal in mind that the college to which you’re applying can help you accomplish? Remember, the more unique and true the topic is to you personally, the more likely it is to stand out to an admissions officer.
According to the Professors’ Guide (professorsguide.com), another key component to a good essay is likability: “Colleges see themselves as communities, where people have to get along with others, in dorms, classes, etc. Are you someone they would like to have dinner with, hang out with, have in a discussion section?” This is not to say your essay has to be an exercise in sycophancy. Simply incorporate tact and civility into your prose.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, seek an editor, preferably a teacher, advisor, or counselor. Remember, even professional writers (journalists, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, etc.) have editors – either as their boss or as someone they pay to improve their work. So if people who write for a living receive second opinions, you probably should too.
Hopefully you’re reading this article in October rather than December, because CollegeOnline.org, Professors’ Guide, and AcademicTips.org all insist that the key to a good term paper is starting well ahead of the deadline. If you begin your work two months (as opposed to two weeks, or heaven forbid, two days) before the due date, you give yourself ample opportunity to gain advantages that would not be available had you waited until the last minute. For instance, you may know your topic well in advance, but only in a general way. After only a little research, you can easily come up with a thesis (an argument that encompasses your literature review, analysis, etc.) for your paper and present it to your professor (or at least your Teaching Assistant). Getting your thesis approved can keep you from wasting time on a paper doomed from its inception. Also, a solid thesis can narrow your subject material, helping you research more effectively and efficiently.
While this may seem old-fashioned, all the aforementioned websites recommend researching your topic in your school library. Anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection can post something online. Publishing companies are far more discriminant, subsequently anything you find in a book, anthology, newspaper or magazine is going to have a much higher standard of accuracy and an elevated degree of intelligence. Also, books cite other books, which yields lots of easy, diverse research as opposed to a search engine that results in ten webpages making the same simple point.
Finally, the burden of term papers typically is their length. In order to maintain an intelligible, succinct flow throughout the entirety of your work, it is important to both outline and proofread. Outlining helps you organize your approach to your paper beforehand, cutting down on off-tangent ramblings and clunky segues. Proofreading, in addition to catching typos, can also identify segments that are awkward, verbose or unnecessary. After doing your own proofreading, take advantage of your school’s writing center if they have one. Again, starting early will give you flexibility to get on the writing center’s schedule instead of being at the mercy of chance at the end of the semester when everyone is seeking help.
You’ve worked for years to earn enough experience and accolades to compile a decent resume only to discover this: your resume is not enough. A huge component to getting hired at a position of any level is your cover letter- a short, but significant piece that both addresses your potential employer and sheds additional light on you as a potential employee.
The First thing you need to do is identify who your potential employer is. By using either the computer or the phone, find out who is the company’s human resources rep or hiring manager. Address your cover letter accordingly.
Additional research will need to be conducted so you can adequately speak to what aspects of the company appeal to you and how you could coincide with their goals and business approach.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin composing the actual text of the letter. Forbes recommends including the name of a mutual contact (if you have one) in the first sentence. This way you’re immediately distinguished from your competition by establishing a relationship with your potential employer.
Don’t repeat your resume. The HR rep/hiring manager you’re dealing with is a professional who gets paid to peruse cover letters and resumes. Don’t waste their time by being redundant. Instead, utilize information obtained in your research of the company as well as positive aspects about yourself that fit specifically to the position you’re applying for that aren’t explicitly enumerated in your resume.
Again, you’re trying to make yourself stand out amongst your competition, so be specific in your prose and avoid banal phrases (i.e. “My name is _____ and I’m applying for ____.”). Finally, save your cover letter (and resume) as either a “doc” or a “pdf” to avoid complications that can arise with other formats resulting in your submissions becoming compromised or unreadable.
Hopefully, with some hard work, several drafts, and these tips from i[x], no matter what you’re next writing project is, you’ll be proud of your final product. Good luck, and check out the i[x] blog (georgiasownnext.com/blog) for more helpful information regarding your academic and professional endeavors.
Congratulations to our 2013 Scholarship recipients and thanks to all who submitted an application. The scholarships were awarded by our Executive Scholarship Committee consisting of Jeff Dauler (Q100’s The Bert Show), Brandi Burton (Atlanta Hawks), Bill McLellan (L.E.A.D.), Michelle Martin (Junior Achievement of Georgia), Jason Gorman (680 The Fan), Jennifer Bodnar (Georgia State University Office of Civic Engagement) and Brian Jordan (Brian Jordan Foundation).
$5,000 – Alena Antonowich (Washington University in St. Louis)
$3,000 – Erin Hennessey (Georgia State University)
$2,000 – Michelle Borg (University of Georgia)
$1,000 – Jack “Tiger” Brown, III (Claremont McKenna College)
$1,000 – John Cowart (Georgia College and State University)
$1,000 – Gavin Greif (University of North Georgia)
$1,000 – Andrew Jarnagin (University of Georgia)
$1,000 – Christopher Lawhorne (University of Texas, El Paso)
Quotes from our winners…
I just want to thank Georgia’s Own for this opportunity; I am so grateful for their help in attaining my goal of a college education. – Alena Antonowich
“It simply means having the opportunity to achieve my goals. It provides encouragement in the sense that it takes a little pressure off of the financial beating college can sometimes bring and allows me to focus solely on my studies.” – Michelle Borg
Between tuition, room and board and textbooks, the bare essentials of college can be prohibitively expensive. With classes, homework, exercise, club meetings, and socializing, finding ample time to help pay for all those aforementioned expenses can be equally challenging. Luckily, some college-student-friendly jobs do exist, and i[x] is here to help you seek out the best ones.
USA Today and US News agree that the following three positions are ideal for any college student, not only for their fiscal benefits, but for their resume appeal as well: brand ambassador, social media consultant, and alumni event assistant. Being a brand ambassador is not only accompanied by freed products and pay, but also the added social benefits that come with being a source for a coveted commodity. Additionally, the ability to say you were in a marketing role for a major company is an excellent accomplishment for any resume. Social networking positions not only capitalize on a skill which your are likely already proficient in, but also often present convenient working environments, as many tasks can be completed from your door room computer. Finally, assisting with alumni events not only gives you a chance to exercise and develop your creative and organizational skills, it’s also an excellent avenue for networking for potential summer internship and jobs after graduation. Other excellent on campus jobs include working for school publications, managing varsity sports teams, and providing guided campus tours.
In case you’re more interested in some off campus work, dailyfinance.com has compiled a list of some of the more exceptional part-time work most likely to accommodate a college student’s schedule. Included on this list are bartending/table waiting, providing art/music lessons, and working as a barista. While waiting tables and bartending isn’t the most glamorous job, it does improve interpersonal skills which not only translates well into the post-grad professional world, but can often lead to some generous tips as well. If you’re an art or music major, providing lessons or instruction in your community is a great way to turn your passion into some handy pocket cash. Finally, if you’re more of a morning person, Starbucks often provides benefits to its part-time employees, a rare perk amongst positions conducive to a full-time student’s class schedule.
So if you’re feeling the anxiety that accompanies student loan debt or if you’re just looking for a few extra dollars and a resume boost to boot, than hopefully this advice will be of some use to you. Be sure not to overstrain yourself, and remember, college can be fun, and a few extra bucks a week can help with that too.
Prior to sinking tens of thousands of dollars and years of academic work into any field of study, it’s worth at least having an idea of what to expect on the other side of graduation. The safest bet currently is what is known as the STEM majors: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Of the Forbes top 15 most valuable majors, five were in the field of engineering (biomedical, software, environmental, civil, and petroleum), five were in math and science (biochemistry, applied mathematics, mathematics, statistics, and physics), and one was in technology (computer science). Additional STEM majors included in the 20 best paying college degrees of 2011 according to CBS News were chemical, electric, and aerospace engineering, as well as nuclear, mechanical, and software engineering. However, the CBS News list also included some non-STEM majors, such as economics (humanities) and finance (business).
While the STEM majors generally lead to the highest salaries, there are plenty of other fields that are growing rapidly and yielding many entry-level positions. According to Careers and Colleges.com, education, communications, and the arts are all areas where recent graduates can expect expanding opportunities. Education wise, with the ever growing population and the seemingly ever declining quality in school systems, the demand for competent teachers at all levels should only continue to increase. Communications graduates will also likely be sought after as more companies continue to require more interactive content targeted at enhancing the experiences of their customers and employees. The arts will similarly be utilized by corporations, whether it be graphic designs of logos or music tracks for commercials. If art majors can get past the stigma of “selling-out,” they will probably find themselves with an array of opportunities for work.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers currently ranks accounting as the field with the most immediate job offers for college grads, and with an average starting salary of $44,000, it’s one of the more initially lucrative opportunities as well. Two slightly less but still highly viable positions listed were management trainee and sales representative.
Conversely, there are arguments to be made for the less heralded majors. Catherine Rampell of The New York Times argues that the humanities, while not highly touted for their practicality at the moment, may prove to be quite valuable in the near future. As more jobs based in mathematics and sciences are replaced by highly advanced computer programs or outsourced to countries with cheaper professionals (i.e. India), jobs requiring social interaction may become higher in demand.
Additionally, there’s nothing preventing students from acquiring more than one major. As many colleges require many prerequisites to be taken over the first year of study anyway, students can take their time deciding what subjects interest them sentimentally and which subjects interest them as a means to a career. If there is no overlap, it is still possible to acquire two degrees in four years, or one degree with multiple minors. The key is to take advantage of the maximum academic workload allowed per semester. This may lead to a more intense schedule, but hopefully also to a more rewarding educational experience with promising career prospects following graduation.
For those opposed to a four year, high intensity schedule but are still interested in a substantial payday after obtaining a degree, there are many surprisingly lucrative positions available for an associates degree. Medical records specialists, health information technicians, all types of medical assistants (dental, physician, and therapy), and registered nurses are all vocations experiencing rapid expansion according to Careers and Colleges.com. In addition to the healthcare field, the early childhood and special education professions are beginning to utilize more and more paraprofessionals as the population continues to increase and the demand for more adequate and qualified employees continues to rise.
It should be noted, however, that the college experience is not an exact science that can be broken down into an equation yielding consistent, guaranteed results. Excelling in any major will demonstrate to any competent employer that a student is capable of critical thinking, meeting deadlines, and responding to instruction – skills useful in any profession. Many graduate school programs simply require a bachelor’s degree and an adequate score on a standardized exam. The major itself is largely irrelevant. The most important thing a college student can do when deciding on a major is to understand what is expected of him or her throughout the coursework’s rigor, and what he or she can realistically expect opportunity-wise after receiving a diploma. Academic advisors are on universities’ payroll largely to help students deal with these types of decisions, and are an excellent resource for information and council.