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Archive | January, 2013

MindMaple Review: Your New Best Friend For College

MindMaple Review: Your New Best Friend For College

Ever feel like you’re caught in a thick mental fog when trying to manage your course load? MindMaple, a new mind mapping software, was created to bring you out of the fog and into a world of complete clarity and organization.

Forget everything you know about brainstorming, task management, prioritization and studying. Gone are the days of endless pages of notes, to-do lists and assignments. With MindMaple, you can organize everything visually, attach documents and hyperlinks and customize mind maps to your personal needs.

Imagine you have a history midterm or final rapidly approaching. Your instructor tells you the exam will cover the first ten chapters of your textbook, and all materials associated with them. Each chapter has an associated PowerPoint presentation, along with your personal notes compiled in a word processing document. Now, before you spend a week tabbing between twenty different files, download and open MindMaple.

With a fresh mind map open in MindMaple, begin with a central topic. For this example, we’ll use US History. Our main subtopics, based off of the chapters covered in class, include the pre-Columbus era, the Colonial era, the formation of the United States of America, Western expansion, the National era, the Civil War era, and so on.

Let’s begin with the Colonial era. Without overloading our brains, separate each main time period into subtopics, and include brief summaries of the important events within that era, highlighted in your personal chapter notes. Attach the Word document to the subtopic for future reference. Here, you can also attach the PowerPoint documents, images you find helpful, links to web pages with additional detail, and more.

Utilize the expand/hide feature to test yourself on important figures, dates, events and legislation, and to help yourself focus on one topic at a time. Upon completion of the mind map, you’ll have an incredibly organized and interactive study guide that will make all of your peers envious and help you get that grade you’ve been vying for all semester long.

Now that your history study guide is complete, you realize you have four exams the same week. How are you going to manage your time? Which should you spend the most time studying for? Should you begin with the hardest exam, or the easiest? MindMaple will help you prioritize and stay on track. Open a new mind map and list all of your exams as topics. Attach the MindMaple study guides you’ve created, as well as any relevant URLs, images, etc. Utilize the priority panel in the sidebar to designate the order in which the exams occur. The task completion can be used to exemplify the progress you’ve made in studying. You’ve only made it through your study guide once? It’s always best to review, review, review and review some more. So designate it as ¼ complete. This will help you stay organized and prevent you from neglecting any course for another.

As with everything in school and life, there’s always a more productive approach you can take. MindMaple can help you strategically organize your life within the classroom and beyond.

Visit MindMaple.com to download the software and contact support@mindmaple.com with any questions. MindMaple offers a free mind mapping software, MindMaple Lite, as well as a pro version for only $9.99. For the tablet-inclined, MindMaple recently released a mind mapping iPad app that is available in the iTunes store, free for a limited time. Currently, MindMaple is only available for Windows, but a Mac version is slated for release in mid-2013.

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Looking To Jump Start Your MBA? Here Are 3 Tips!

Looking To Jump Start Your MBA? Here Are 3 Tips!

There is no doubt that deciding to pursue an advanced degree is a commitment. You will commit to time away from your family and your career. You will also make a financial commitment, which often includes paying back student loans after you graduate. Because of this, it is important to carefully consider how you are going to plan for this investment.

Choose Your Program

The first step you must take is to choose your MBA program. Whether you pursue an accelerated MBA online or an on-campus, two-year MBA program, your chosen degree plan should be the one that best serves your long-term career goals. Once you have selected your program, you can begin to research how best to afford it. For the best results, it is wise to select your top three programs and apply to all three.

Research Tuition Costs

Your next step should be researching tuition costs for each program you are interested in. Sometimes, you can save money by taking an online program versus an on-campus program because fees and overhead costs are often lower. You may also be able to save on tuition by taking an accelerated MBA program. Be sure to balance these savings against what you may give up in terms of employment income to figure out the best solution for your personal, work and financial situation.

Research Financial Aid

There are several types of financial aid that graduate students can apply for. Once you know whether you will attend a full-time or part-time, online or on-campus, traditional or accelerated program, you can then start researching the best combination of financial aid options to pay for your education.

  • Federal aid. Your first step in researching financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. These results can then be forwarded to the financial aid office of any institutions you have applied to. The institutions use this information to calculate other financial aid or awards you may be eligible for. The government also uses the FAFSA information to calculate what types of grants and loans you may be eligible for. Also, be aware of the submission deadlines for the FAFSA and allow adequate time to complete this complicated form.
  • School aid. School aid may come in the form of fellowships, work-study programs, scholarships or grants — or a combination of all of the above. You should contact both the university financial aid office and the specific department office to find out what types of aid you are eligible for and what the application requirements and deadlines are for each.
  • Tuition reimbursement or forgiveness. For some students, their employer may also offer tuition reimbursement. Often, tuition reimbursement also requires the employee return to work for the company for a certain number of years after graduation. As well, for graduates who choose government, education or nonprofit-sector work, sometimes you can qualify for tuition forgiveness if you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Private scholarships. There are a number of websites you can use to research private scholarships. You may also belong to associations or organizations that offer assistance for graduate-level students. Be sure to allow plenty of time for scholarship research and applications, as these are as competitive and complicated as applying for graduate school itself.
  • Private loans. Private loans are still considered a last resort for undergraduate and graduate students. It is best to maximize all other types of aid first before turning to private bank loans. The one exception may be that, in certain circumstances, when interest rates are very low, private loans may offer you a better value than government-loan aid. Keep a careful eye on interest rates as your admission date nears to decide on the best course of action.

It is important to spend adequate time thoroughly researching each aid option to reduce your overall financial burden. By doing your research thoroughly, you can find a way to earn your advanced degree and be on your way to achieving your career goals.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Calli Nyhen (who enrolled in Benedictine University online last fall). Through assembling a combination of private scholarships, grants and loans, she now feels confident she can afford the higher education she has dreamt about.

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Back to School Series Part II: Managing Time and Money in College

Back to School Series Part II: Managing Time and Money in College

In the first part of our series, we discussed some important considerations when making the decision to go back to school. One of these considerations was maintaining a work-life balance, with an emphasis on planning above all else. Since this component is so fundamental to your academic success, this second part will provide a more in-depth discussion of managing new responsibilities at home and in school.

Time Management

Education programs can come with a demanding workload covering several complex topics. Naturally, this will require a significant investment of your time while you’re in school, so you’ll want to create schedules and plan ahead to get everything done by its due date. Get into a habit of creating a schedule once a week. Although you can do this with simply a calendar and a pen, technology is often a better alternative for maintaining organization and keeping your schedule consistently handy.

Smartphone organization apps are ideal for scheduling, since you can set alarms, assign priorities to certain items and even keep organized folders full of notes, images and other files relevant to each item. There are tons of apps available to help students study with more efficiency while in school, so make sure to take advantage of these whenever possible. Try to prioritize everything on your to-do list and recruit friends and loved ones to help you complete less timely tasks like grocery shopping and running general errands.

Frugality

Even if you’re a non-traditional student, you still have to approach going back to college as a broke, ramen noodle-eating college student to keep your finances in order. Create a budget before you start school and determine ways you can cut back on expenses. The best way to do this is to review your debit and credit card statements from previous months to determine how much you spend on average in categories such as food, clothing, rent, utilities and any unique categories that consume a significant portion of your paychecks.

Once you have created an average budget for yourself, try to cut these expenses down as much as possible by eliminating items you don’t absolutely need. In addition to cutting items down completely, settle for cheaper alternatives of the items you do need. For example, if you’re used to shopping at high-end stores in the mall, settle for resale boutiques instead. As far as paying for school goes, look for as many scholarship opportunities as possible to help alleviate these costs and eliminate the need for heavy student loans.

Apply to scholarships as early as possible to make sure you get it all done in time and are able to take advantage of multiple opportunities. Budget for paying off your loans little by little while you’re in school, so you can manage repayment after graduation. Look for accelerated degree programs (like a medical assistant degree) so that you can get in and out of school relatively quickly, thus limiting your student loan debt.

There is no such thing as too much planning when it comes to going back to school, so be sure to use your time wisely and keep everything organized while you’re in school. Going back to school will certainly require sacrifices and even moments when you think you can’t do it, but pushing through and staying focused will help you successfully earn the degree you want. So, now that you’ve learned why you should go back to school in part one and how to stay organized in part two, you’re ready to get started on your educational journey.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article is provided by Lindsey Harper Mac. She is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area that specializes in writing guest posts on social media and education. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.

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30 Quick & Easy Approaches To Making College Cheaper

30 Quick & Easy Approaches To Making College Cheaper

On CheapScholar.org, I thoroughly enjoy serving as a resource for families and students that are trying to navigate the financial aspect of their college experience. I cover a lot of topics (many related to Financial Aid & Paying For College Options) but one of the most important resources I like to share is how students are saving their hard-earned dollars and making college cheaper on their own campuses.

Lindsey Arrojo is currently a student at Pierpont College and she recently entered CheapScholar’s “How Do YOU Make College Cheaper?” Scholarship giveaway. She took the time to submit 30 quick and easy ways in which you can make college more affordable. In an effort to share her knowledge and experience, I am passing her wisdom onto you. Enjoy!

1. Submit the FAFSA each and every year

2. Apply for all possible scholarships

3. Apply for grants

4. Limit excessive spending

5. Eat ramen noodles

6. Wash clothes at school (it is free)

7. Buy or rent used books

8. Reuse school supply

9. While living on campus limit trips traveling back home

10. If commuter, carpool back and forth to school.

11. If commuter, use public transportation

12. Use coupons when shopping

13. Sign up for reward cards

14. Bring lunch to school

15. Unplug anything and everything that is electronic if you don’t need it.

16. Use your cell phone less to make the bill cheaper.

17. Find a local dentistry school and ask if they do dental work for free.

18. Stop buying water in bottles.

19. Stop going to the tanning booth.

20. Buy your clothes at thrift stores.

21. Buy the big bags of snacks, then put them in little plastic sandwich bags and take to school with you.

22. Sell your books.

23. Many local stores and businesses will give a discount to students with a student ID card.

24. Sell unwanted items on ebay.

25. Get a job off campus.

26. Work for your college or university.

27. Be a babysitter.

28. Don’t pay to park.

29. Sell your blood/plasma.

30. Make your own coffee.

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Fostering The Entrepreneurial Spirit At College: Visualized

Fostering The Entrepreneurial Spirit At College: Visualized

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report states that there are over 165 million early-stage entrepreneurs in our nation between the ages of 18-25. With the number of budding start-up tech companies that we see emerging everyday, this statistic doesn’t come as a surprise. As a matter of fact, Peter Thiel (the founder of PayPal) believes so strongly in the entrepreneurial spirit that he is willing to give students $100,000 to drop out of college to pursue their passion. Some studies even recommend not going to college. The following infographic (created by Intuit) provides a great example of how colleges are encouraging and catering to future entrepreneurs on their campuses. You can click on the picture to see it in a larger size. Enjoy!

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Back to School Series Part I: What to Consider Before Enrolling

Back to School Series Part I: What to Consider Before Enrolling

Making the decision to go back to school is a long and drawn-out process that doesn’t exactly occur overnight. Although you may have the conviction and drive to conquer this challenging task, there are several more complex components of the decision-making process that must be considered before you can actually enroll. Although it’s a positive life change, it won’t be an easy one, so it’s best to prepare as much as possible for the following aspects of returning to school.

Cost

College is one of the best investments you’ll ever make, but it’s also one of the most expensive. With skyrocketing tuition rates, very few people get out with zero debt. Student loans can seem like a heavy burden to bear, but remember that this debt will only be temporary and will likely pay off once you apply your education to the job market. Although you should expect to incur at least a little debt, you should try to minimize cost as much as possible.

Research early to see what grants and scholarships you qualify for, since this is basically free money for your education. If you already have a job in a relevant field, see if they have a program that pays for employee tuition in exchange for a certain amount of time spent at the company. Loans are a last resort, but they can still be extremely helpful in paying for your education for the time being. If possible, try to avoid taking out too much by enrolling in two years at a community college first and choosing the most affordable in-state college option.

Work-Life Balance

Higher education requires just as much (if not more) from you mentally as it does financially, so you’ll want to be prepared to add a demanding schoolwork schedule on top of your regular everyday responsibilities. The best way to keep these two aspects of your life manageable is to not place it all on your shoulders alone. Recruit friends, family, loved ones and acquaintances to help you as much as possible with balancing these two busy schedules.

If you have kids, see if a relative will watch them while you’re in class, so you can save on daycare and stay focused on your studies. If you’re struggling with your schoolwork, ask someone in the class to work with you to complete your school responsibilities faster and more effectively. Create a schedule for everything you need to do each day and make an effort to stick to it. Planning will be the key to managing everything you need to do and making sure it all gets done.

Degree Practicality

Everyone says you should follow your passion when it comes to choosing a career, but you have to make sure that the things you love have a practical real-world application as well. If you want to be a doctor, but aren’t ready to invest the 10+ years in school you would need to meet these qualifications, it might be best to choose a medical assistant program that would put you in the center of that field without requiring an overwhelming amount of work and incurring extra debt. Talk to a guidance counselor at the school you’re considering to find out about career paths for your degree program of choice.

Once you’ve sorted all of the logistics out, get excited! Going back to school is an exciting life change that will stimulate intellectual growth and help you discover a whole new world of opportunity. Although you may encounter challenges both in finalizing the decision and performing successfully in your classes, this new chapter can be exciting because you’re able to learn new things and grow as a person. The second half of this series will provide more in-depth planning advice to help you prepare for scheduling and managing your finances while in school, so stay tuned.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article is provided by Lindsey Harper Mac. She is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area that specializes in writing guest posts on social media and education. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.

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A Student’s Guide on Blogging: 10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

A Student’s Guide on Blogging: 10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

The following guest article comes from Greg Narayan. As a preface, I think that blogging has a number of benefits beyond the financial aspect but I have witnessed some students become very successful with their blogs and earn a supplemental income to help get them through their college years...

There’s no denying it, people are making a living online today.

Not in the sense of the “mom who makes $5000/month” nonsense; no, people are actually developing powerful content through tools like WordPress to make a respectable full-time living.

If you’ve ever wondered “how do I blog for money” you’ll want to read this. Here are 10 helpful questions which should indicate if the blogging life is right for you. If you pass, go put your PJs on and brew a coffee, because trust me it’s a whole lot of fun.

1- Are you creative minded?

Do you work better under a boss or by yourself? Back in school, were you a group project player or more of an individualist? If you question authority and find your path is usually the best way to do things, then you’ll like blogging. It’s an outlet for your thoughts and your path to becoming a self-defined expert.

2- Are you tech-savvy?

Do you navigate Twitter with ease? Are you inclined to learn HTML and CSS? These skills are mandatory to go far in blogging. If you’d rather just sit back and let someone else do that stuff, you should certainly blog but maybe not seriously.

3- Can you write well?

Did you do well on that SAT writing test? Were essays your thing in college or did you HATE them? You’ll have to write a lot, on your blog and other peoples’, to get by as a professional blogger. You had been enjoy it and have some previous writing prowess under your belt.

4- Can you network?

Do you find meeting people easy, and more importantly enjoyable? Do you “get” others and understand what makes them tick? Meeting new bloggers and building lasting relationships with readers is super important to your online success. If you’d rather not do the people side of it, you can always code on WordPress’ open-source platforms and do just great.

5- Are you patient?

Do you crave immediate success, or can you get by with marginal gains? Starting up a blog is tedious, after you decide where to blog you’re left with an empty canvas and virtually no readers. Sure, the free tools out there will get you sailing and soon too, but you’ve got to savor every tiny new reader, Facebook Like, and email subscriber like it’s your last.

6- Are you overly busy?

Blogging requires daily work. If your day-to-day is too jam packed with jobs, studies, maybe even kids, you may find blogging too stressful. The fun must outweigh the stress.

7- Are you persistent?

How do you deal with rejection? Poorly? Do you pick yourself up right away and keep fighting? Rejection is a huge part of starting a blog, whether it’s from a potential client, from Google, or just from a spiteful commenter. You’ve got to find a way around it.

8- Are you an entrepreneur?

Have you had aspirations to start your own company and work for yourself? This is a big one. You should want, almost crave, that lifestyle of independence, and have the risk-loving persona to get there.

9- Do your friends blog?

An odd question, but if your friends already either blog or work in entrepreneurial endeavors it’ll make it a lot easier for you to get started. You’ll have people to encourage you and help you out with a friendly back-link or two.

10- Are you an expert?

The final question is one of those intangibles. Do you have some knowledge you really think the world could benefit from? You are unique, I’ll tell you that, but do you also want to teach? Whether its cooking, interior design, gardening, or gadgets, you should love a specific niche and be able to fill up a blog with your knowledge.

Conclusion: Write it down

I’d recommend you reread those 10 questions, then jot down your answers on a piece of scratch paper. Save that piece of paper – when you’re off and running with your blog you may want to refer back to it to see what you were thinking when you just started off.

So what do you think, is blogging for a living for you? Let me know by commenting right here.

About Today’s Author

Greg Narayan is the manager of two blogs, HonestCollege.com and DearBlogger.org. He codes professionally on NYC.gov websites. You can find Greg on Google +.

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Managing a College Budget: What to Avoid and What to Embrace

Managing a College Budget: What to Avoid and What to Embrace

Heading off to college is a big change in financial responsibility for most students. Suddenly you have the freedom to purchase whatever you want, whenever you want. Stocking up on clothes, taking road trips, and ordering seconds seem so tempting as a free undergrad. When you are responsible for your own personal finances and budget, it’s important to educate yourself about how to spend and manage your money wisely. Being educated on the importance of budgeting in college is key to keeping your head above water and your bank account from being drained.

Strategies to Embrace:

  • US News suggests paying attention to your college’s calendar of free events on campus and take advantage of the entertainment your student activity fee covers. You can save a lot of money if you go to plays and concerts on campus instead of buying tickets for events elsewhere.
  • Buy used textbooks from your college bookstore, online, or even better, from friends who took the course last semester. Keep them in good condition and sell them to someone else when you’re done with the class. Renting textbooks is another option if you can’t find a good used book to purchase or are afraid you won’t be able to resell yours.
  • Get identity theft protection to make sure you won’t be held financially responsible if someone else starts using your information for their own good. Even college students are open to having their information compromised, especially when applying for those new credit cards. There are companies out there that will protect your credit, monitor all of your information including bank accounts, and guard it all from potential attacks. Adding this layer of protection will guard your finances and add a layer of security for your future.
  • Calculate how much money you’ll have available to spend each semester, subtract bigger expenses like textbooks, and divide the remainder by the number of weeks in the semester. Stick to this weekly budget for your discretionary spending on things like clothes, food, and entertainment.

Strategies to Avoid:

  • As a good rule of thumb, the Denver Post writes you shouldn’t use your credit card for everyday expenses. It’s not uncommon for students to rack up thousands dollars of debt, and you’ll pay almost that much additionally in interest. You should reserve your credit card for emergencies, or for things like buying books at the beginning of the semester and paying the bill in full as soon as you can.
  • Don’t assume you aren’t going to get any financial aid. Many students are surprised to learn when they apply that they qualify for grants, scholarships, or student loans. These can help reduce the immediate financial burden of attending school.
  • Don’t eat out at pricey restaurants. Although you often want to get out of the dining hall every once in a while, this can get expensive when you’re already paying for a full meal plan on campus and choosing to forfeit your free meal to spend money somewhere else. When you eat out, look for coupons to reduce the cost.
  • Don’t ignore your bills. You’ll end up having to pay late charges and you’ll get penalized on your credit score, reports Bankingmyway.com. This can have long-term effects — a harder time getting credit to purchase a car, or even a house — after you graduate from college.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to manage your budget, don’t be afraid to ask your parents for help setting up a system that works for you. They won’t necessarily be able or willing to bail you out if you get in trouble, but they’ll probably be happy to give some free advice to help you better manage your money going forward. Your college may also offer workshops or advising to help you create a budget on paper and learn how to stick to it.

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