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Archive | June, 2013

Financial Aid for Parents: Does Claiming Financial Need Hurt College Applications?

Financial Aid for Parents: Does Claiming Financial Need Hurt College Applications?

financial-aid-awardsThere are many factors that students and parents should consider when selecting colleges and universities to apply to. Perhaps the most important factor is if the school offers a good program in the student’s academic area of interest, but the selection process should not end there. With the economy in a years-long slump, financial aid has seldom been more important to families hoping to put their children through college. It is estimated that over 10 million students applied for financial aid in 2011. Financial aid from the college or university a student attends can mean the difference between being able to go to college and needing to enter the job market right out of high school. Many parents are beginning to worry that applying for financial aid will negatively affect their students’ chances of being accepted to the school of their choice, which leads them to making some common mistakes on their applications.

Are Need-Blind Schools A Myth?
A need-blind school is one that does not review the financial status or need of the family when reviewing the student’s admissions application. The student’s application is considered solely on merits such as academic performance in the classroom, scores on standardized tests, extracurricular achievements, and volunteer activities. Students and parents should be realistic about how desirable their application to these schools will be, as these schools are most likely to be very selective about whom they admit. While there are a handful of colleges in the United States that claim to admit students based on merit alone, the vast majority of schools in the U.S. will consider a family’s ability to pay when making their admissions decisions.

Truly Need-Blind Colleges and Institutions
Some of the wealthiest schools in the country, such as Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale, can afford to be truly need-blind. These schools selectively admit only those students who are the best candidates to their school, regardless of need. However, these schools have enormous endowments and can afford to pay for students who do not pay full tuition; many schools must at least partially consider the probable financial need of a student, even when the student’s financial aid application status is not listed on the admissions application. If a student’s admissions essay casually mentions a summer in the Seychelles, for example, that sends a message to admissions officers that the student may be able to pay full tuition. Often parents will state outright in their application that they’re able to pay full tuition, but this is probably not actually helpful.

Need-Sensitive Schools: A Middle Ground
Some schools are entirely need-blind and others openly review an applicant’s ability to pay for tuition, but others consider themselves mostly need-blind schools. These are schools that may be most concerned with the applicants’ merits, but which will take into account the student’s financial needs if they are sizeable. While some schools may be truly or mostly need blind when considering applicants, some may treat applicants on a wait list differently when it comes to financial need. In fact, the National Association for College Admission Counseling conducted a study in 2008 that showed that about six percent of private schools were need-sensitive for students on their wait list. Admissions departments will often tell you what their policy is regarding financial aid and admissions. One way to ensure a student’s application receives the most favorable review is to apply for early admission. Many schools assess applications without regard to financial need before a certain deadline, so applying within that window may give students who are concerned about their financial need affecting their application the best chance of being accepted.

Applying for the Top Schools
Parents and students alike are deterred from applying for admissions to top schools like Yale, Standard, and Harvard because they believe that they will not be able to pay the tuition and fees at these schools. However, because these wealthy schools may be truly need-blind, they may be able to offer a more attractive financial aid package to students. The cost of tuition should not deter students who want to attend these schools and who have the academic background to thrive at these schools from applying for admissions.

How to Consider Financial Aid Status When Applying
The fact is that admissions departments consider many factors when reviewing a financial aid package. While some will openly consider if a student requires financial aid, grants, and scholarships in order to attend, others may be more subtle about reviewing applicants’ financial need. Students concerned about their financial need affecting their application can apply for early admission, when many colleges maintain a need-blind attitude to application assessment. Parents and students alike can stay realistic about the desirability of their application, and should focus on applying to schools to which they feel acceptance is within reach.

With each school considering financial need in different ways, parents and students may be understandably concerned about how financial need could affect their own applications. The bottom line is that students should apply for the schools that are the best fit for their academic interests. Even schools that may place some emphasis on financial need in admissions decisions will probably not rule out an applicant who is well-qualified based on need alone. It is best to apply for the right schools that are a good fit; a financial aid package will often be provided that helps to make paying for the school more affordable.

 

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Education Debt – Keep an Eye on Student Loan Laws

Education Debt – Keep an Eye on Student Loan Laws

lawschoolThere are quite a number of people who wish to obtain a college education, but their limited resources may easily hinder their ability to do so if not for the accessibility of student loans. Subsidized student loans have over time been availed by the government, but a number of non-government institutions have also provided the unsubsidized options. Some of the existing laws have however, been reviewed to make way for new ones, which will enable for the loans to be serviced and dispatched in a more effective manner. In essence, the new law will make it possible for students to go through their education using government rewarded loans, and then later repay them under better terms.

Laws Impacting Borrowers

1. The current law stipulates that people who take federal student loans and responsibly handle the repayments will have the balance forgiven after 25 years, but when the new law takes effect, students who get enrolled in or after 2014 will have their balances done away with in 20 years. In addition, those who will be successfully recruited in the public service sector will be forgiven after a period of 10 years, to ease their burden seeing as the workers in this sector receive significantly lower pay.

2. Students will also have the freedom to make payments that amount to only ten percent of their earnings. Individuals who will settle for this repayment option will put not more than 10% of their wages into settlement of the obtained loans –the current rates stand at 15% and the decrease is therefore pretty significant. Over a million persons will be eligible for this repayment plan.

3. If you intend to take out the student loans as a first-timer you should also be ready to deal with the limits that will be in place with regard to the amount you will be allowed to borrow. In the event that the loan will not be able to take you through to graduation, as a student, you will have to look for scholarships, unsubsidized loans or seek employment. This is a regulation designed to make more students graduate within a specific time.

Are the Student Loan Laws Beneficial?

The student loan policies will take effect in July, which means that anyone who obtains the loan before then will not be affected. The loans will also be provided based on the annual earnings of students’ families. The law that will go into operation will be aimed at decreasing the number of students eligible for such type of financial aid.

The limits on the loan borrowing will be put in place to help manage the debt amassed by college students in the course of their training. As a result, they will deal with lower payments once they start out on the loan settlement and this will significantly help ease the load.

Access to the subsidized loans will be restricted, but students will still be able to get hold of the unsubsidized loans regardless of their socioeconomic status. The policies will be of considerable benefit especially to the families with low income, since more of the students from such families will get to access the assistance they require.

As much as a college education is important, it cannot be meaningful if it plunges the borrower into financial ruin. This is something the government has taken note of and consequently worked to develop new law to make possible for the borrowers to handle the accumulated debts better. Considering the high cost incurred in catering for college education, getting financial aid is certainly a commendable cause, but it is important to be accountable in order to make the most of those resources.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Andrew Deen. He is a writer who creates informative articles relating to law. In this article he offers student loan advice and aims to encourage further study with a education law degree programs .

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Free College Gear Giveaway! – Artist Series Wireless Mobile Mouse

Free College Gear Giveaway! – Artist Series Wireless Mobile Mouse

CheapScholar.org has been selected to be a Microsoft Windows Champion this year. As part of that relationship, we get early access to various Microsoft initiatives that often include new hardware and software releases. We enjoy sharing this information with our readers and, when available, providing you with free college gear to help with your educational endeavors on campus.

SiScottToday’s College Gear Giveaway provides you with an opportunity to win a Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500. It comes from the limited edition artist series that combines precision, portability, and style.

The artist for this mouse is Si Scott. Here is a brief snippet about him: Si is a full-time artist, designer, and creative consultant based in the UK. He is renowned for his unique style, which blends hand-crafted and hand-drawn artwork. Scott’s award-winning work has drawn prestigious clients including Matthew Williamson, Vogue, Nike, Tiffany & Co., and Sony. Scott has also contributed to advertising campaigns for Guinness, Absolut, and American Express. A visiting lecturer at the Leeds College of Art & Design, Scott has given talks and exhibited his work at institutions in cities around the world, including Tokyo, New York, Brazil, and Sydney.

This mouse is ideal for life on the go – it features a battery life of up to eight months and BlueTrack Technology, so you can work, browse, and play on virtually any surface. Plus, its snap-in Nano transceiver lets you remain plugged into your computer at all times, giving you clutter-free portability and wireless freedom in a comfortable, compact and stylish mouse.

We know that you (or someone you know) can make good use of this versatile and stylish technology.

The following represents the many different ways in which you can submit an entry into the giveaway:

Each of the methods above will give you an entry into the giveaway.  So, you could potentially have up to five chances to win the Free Artist Series Mobile Mouse from Microsoft…

SiScottMouseThis giveaway will close on Thursday July 4th at midnight (Eastern Standard Time). I will randomly select a winner (using the wonders of technology – Random.org) from the entries and announce the winner on this article on July 5th.  The winner has a week to contact me and arrange for delivery of the Mobile Mouse. If I don’t hear from the winner, I will randomly select an alternate.

Hope you enjoy this giveaway. If you know of any deserving students that could make good use of a Free Artist Series Mobile Mouse from Microsoft, please feel free to utilize the “share tab” to the left to pass this information onto them.

Good Luck! :)

***WINNER UPDATE*** Congratulations to Patricia Booth for winning this very stylish wireless mouse!

 

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Cutting Costs in College: 10 Things You Don’t Actually Need

Cutting Costs in College: 10 Things You Don’t Actually Need

dollar-cuttingThe cost of college tuition alone is enough these days to shock parents into catatonia, and the price seems to rise each year, with no discernible upper limit.  Families are stretched thin to meet basic expenses.  Personal observation suggests many kids may be excluded from the opportunity for advanced education, just because of the lack of a relatively modest amount of money.  Thus, when budgeting for college, examine every cost closely.  Eliminating any unnecessary expenditures could eventually ensure completing your degree, on the one hand, rather than dropping out for financial reasons, on the other.  Let’s see what expenses might be eliminated.

A car:

Many campuses withhold parking permits from freshman, and others strongly discourage all students from bringing their own cars to campus.  Colleges want students sticking around to study, not gallivanting off to waste their time on non-academic activities.  Automobile care, especially without familiar and trusted mechanics, is a burden and a distraction.  Car insurance for young people is notoriously expensive as well.  The rule of thumb should be that unless a car is necessary it should be left at home.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Many students need to commute to college, and public transit may be lacking.  Another exception t is a job substantially helps with tuition.  Alternatively, a job that maximizes one’s chances at a graduate program (e.g., research lab work as preparation for medical school) might justify a car.

Try to get the least expensive second hand vehicle possible that has a decent safety record.  Stay away from flashy models that might attract the unwelcome attention of car thieves/vandals or prompt the urge to take road trips, with their attendant dangers of driving while intoxicated.  Choose what is sometimes called a ‘beater’ car.  Appearance and cool factor vehicle are irrelevant – these can wait until that first big job is secured.

Space-hogging TV:

Unless you are jointly furnishing shared off-campus housing, chances are your living space will resemble a submariner’s.  The space consumed by an enormous TV is better spent on living space or something that can actually save you money, for example, a refrigerator or microwave, if allowed.  Additionally, the presence of a big screen in the room constitutes a constant temptation to watch (see below).

Cable TV service:

This is not the time in your s life to be vegetating in front of the boob tube.  Spending any time on TV when there are grades to be earned and knowledge to be gained is simply ludicrous.  If you feel that life without your favorite show is not worth living, then services such as Netflix can feed the need at a lower cost than a cable subscription.

Tons of clothes:

Yes, college students need enough clothes to last between weekly laundry sessions , but a massive wardrobe is a potential source of friction between roommates, rather than an asset.  Storage space at most on and off-campus housing is minimal.  Enough items to get through the week, and one or two dress-up outfits should be adequate.   Your prom outfit will probably be a special acquisition, anyway.  Comfortable footgear is where students/families should allocate some serious money.

Lots of furniture:

College dorm rooms, furnished with the basics, are already generally over- full (see above). Furniture merely makes move-in/out more cumbersome.  Even most off-campus housing includes a minimalist supply of furnishings.  Besides, most college towns are blessed with thrift shops and second hand furniture stores.  If, once installed, you discover that you simply cannot study without a Barca-lounger, chances are you will find one nearby.  Check Craigslist for ‘free stuff’, or a curb alert, and exploit the desperation of most folks to offload such large pieces of furniture.

Trunks:

These neither store as efficiently as soft luggage nor repel mice (from painful personal experience).  Use soft-sided luggage for travel, and plastic bins for pest-resistant long-term or off-season storage.  See about purchasing bins from departing seniors.

Books:

Buy textbooks second-hand whenever possible.  The college library should have access to everything else you need, either directly or via interlibrary loan, and you are paying for the service already.  Choose your light discretionary reading from the college stacks and save!

Pet:

No.  No.  No.  This is neither the time nor place for Buster/Tweetie, no matter how accommodating your off-campus landlord promises to be.  You will lack the time to give your long-beloved pet the attention that they deserve, if you are a committed student.  A shelter rescue commits you to a level of maintenance and care that you can ill afford – at this point in your life!  If you insist on dragging along your animal companion, you could be liable for very expensive damages to your residence, as well.

Hometown boyfriend/girlfriend:

You will spend vast amounts of money (on travel and phone calls, for example) that is not necessary to your academic future.  More importantly, although this is non-financial issue, you will distract yourself from both your studies and the opportunity to make new friends, if you are tied emotionally to your high school past.  Just agree to suspend your relationship after high school and if it was meant to be, it will last through college.  Your experience at college will be much more fulfilling.

A super-duper-fancy computer:

A good computer is necessary.  An ultra-cool computer is not.  A costly unit can be damaged in transit, stolen, or left behind just as easily as a cheaper version.  Spend some money instead on back-up storage for crucial notes and paper drafts, whether a back-up drive, or the Cloud, or both.

Keep all these potential cost reductions in mind, and spend the savings on tuition or broadening travel or a down payment on a home, or an entrepreneurial investment.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from David Tucker – editor, writer and a passionate guest blogger.  David starts his day with writing, then writes the whole day and has a short writing session right before bed. So yeah, he’s into writing… :)

 

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Grants to Help Moms Go Back to School

Grants to Help Moms Go Back to School

Grants For MomsToday’s guest article is provided by Tracy Fletcher.

The facts are irrefutable. On average, people with more education make more money, and no one needs money more than a mom working to provide for her family. While most mothers are aware of this fact, many do not have the extra cash available to invest in a college degree and may spend years working at jobs that pay minimum wages. However, moms who wish to return to school can actually do so even if their budget is quite limited. The trick is to find grants, or free money, to help with the cost of completing a degree program. Moms with a dream of going back to school in order to provide sufficient financial support for their families might find the following opportunities helpful:

Assistance from the Government

Because the US Government recognizes that education will increase potential earnings and give many women the opportunity to get off of welfare and food stamp rolls, it funds a variety of grants to assist women who wish to go back to school. This money can be obtained through filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Some of the most popular grants include Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and some moms will qualify for more than one type of assistance.

Privately Funded Grant Opportunities

Some private foundations have made it their mission to provide grants that would make it easy for women to further their education. The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund, for instance, has been providing money to women who show academic potential for over 25 years. The American Association of University Women also has several grants set aside for female applicants, and the Barbara Lee Foundation designates grants through their Women in Politics Program. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation also provides money to moms in low income brackets who want to go back to school for more training, and the Whitehead Scholarship Program for Women offers grants to moms interested in a health field.

Corporate Sponsors of Grants for Women

Businesses, both large and small, recognize the value of training women for the workforce. Moms interested in returning to school for more training should check out the grants offered by these corporations:

• ExxonMobil Grants for Women and Girls

• Avon Foundation Grants

• Huggies Mom Inspired Grant Program

• Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund

• Verizon Foundation

• Union Bank

• Target

• Wells-Fargo

The key to getting the funds to pay for all aspects of a college degree, often including childcare and transportation, is to apply for as many of these grants as time allows. Some may only be for a small amount of money, but these can add up to a significant sum when lumped together. Moms should also check their specific states because some of these also offer some wonderful grant opportunities, and federal money is sometimes funneled through the states.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Tracy Fletcher. She writes for StudentGrants.org and believes moms should take the time to apply for grants to help them fulfill their ambitions to go back to school.

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College Admissions – Opportunities to Engage Abroad

College Admissions – Opportunities to Engage Abroad

studyabroadmoneyWith college admissions rates dropping across the board, today’s college applicants are looking for ways to diversity their applications and land a coveted spot at one of the top schools on their list. Likewise, college admissions committees faced with thousands of student portfolios are looking for ways to narrow down a pool of applicants. Volunteer experience, especially volunteer abroad experience, is one such way that you can stand out from the crowd.

Why Volunteering Works

Volunteering teaches life and leadership skills, including interpersonal skills, written and oral communication, public speaking, team building and group management, and time management. Travel volunteer experiences allow you to get to know another culture and perhaps even practice foreign language skills. All of this adds up to a college admissions candidate who is caring, well-socialized and on the path to becoming a leader. This is exactly the type of student that colleges want! Students who serve abroad have demonstrated that they are willing and able to step outside of their comfort zone and have new experiences.

Translating Experiences Back Home

While you obviously gain plenty of life experience on a short-term volunteer abroad opportunity, the learning isn’t something that has to end back home. In fact, you may be a more impressive candidate if the service learning doesn’t end when you return home. Volunteer organization Do Something published a 2011 study revealing that admissions committees look particularly favorable on students who had a memorable volunteer experience abroad and were able to translate that experience into something back home. So if you particularly enjoyed teaching children to read in Ethiopia, you may find fulfillment back home by becoming involved in literacy tutoring or with new immigrant programs. You’re taking the interests and service learning skills from your travel experience and incorporating them into your everyday life. In short, you have a passion for this type of service, and you are demonstrating it.

Likewise, if you take steps before you leave to gain skills related to your volunteering abroad, this will impress college admissions committees. For example, you may take six months of Spanish language classes or become involved in academic tutoring in your school, with the goal of traveling on a service learning program and using these skills to serve internationally.

Demonstrating Experience in a College Application

While you may have experience in student government, extracurricular clubs, international volunteering and volunteering at home, college committees want to see more than a laundry list of student service. The key to selling service learning in the application is communicating the depth and the meaning of the experience. Committees want to see that an experience was meaningful to you on a personal level, and not just an obligation. Since many high schools have a community service requirement as part of graduation, taking the time to communicate the personal tie to the experience is key. A teacher, parent or even a friend can help you craft a strong personal essay that explains how your volunteer abroad opportunity has transformed and enriched your life, and how you plan to continue your passion in college.

Financial Benefits of Studying Abroad

An additionally, more practical positive application of studying aboard is the inherent savings and academic reward you will receive. Below are some interesting statistics taken from Indiana University in a study they did on those who study aboard:

  • Using the entering cohort from 1999, 95.3% of students who studied abroad graduated within 6 years as compared to 68.5% of students who did not study abroad.
  • Study abroad students earned higher grades and completed degrees in four years at a higher rate than their peers.
  • The average study abroad student earned a cumulative GPA of 3.21 compared to 3.12 for peers who didn’t study abroad.
  • Study abroad students had a probably of .91 of completing a bachelor’s degree in four years compared to .84 for peers.

Completely school faster with better grades will work towards higher-income out of college and lower student debt. That, coupled with the invaluable experience, is a total win.

Plan ahead when looking for volunteer opportunities to select the right opportunity to meet your personal goals and impress college admissions officers. Choose something about which you are truly excited. There are so many interesting and unique ways to serve that you don’t need to volunteer somewhere just because you think it will look good on an application. A successful service learning trip will be something that is first and foremost meaningful to you, then geared toward resumes or college admissions second.

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Freeloading Your Way to Success In College

Freeloading Your Way to Success In College

moneytreeEveryone loves getting things for free, and there are more freebies available to you than you know. Whether you want to fly for free, enjoy samples of your favorite products, or earn cash back when you spend money, you can soon start freeloading with the best of them. It may take a little research and some time spent signing up, but the efforts are worth the freebies.

Sign Up for Freebies

There are tens of thousands of freebie sites on the Internet. From Mom Blogs to company websites, you can find opportunities to get free products, free points redeemable for prizes, and many other fun freebies. What can you look forward to receiving? From most of these freebie sites, signing up will get you:

  • Coupons, discount codes, or gift cards for different items
  • Sample size products at no cost
  • Free samples of foods, drinks, and other products
  • And full-sized samples of medications, beauty products, and health items

In most cases it doesn’t cost anything to sign up with these sites. If you simply include your name, phone number, email address, and mailing address, you’ll receive your freebies in just a few weeks. In other cases, you may have to share a tweet or a Facebook comment.

Discover Some Free Reward Points

If you’re really interested in freeloading your way to success, then try Internet banking opportunities. Doing this can actually lead to you receiving money for free, and cash is the best freebie of all. If you sign up to receive Discover Bank’s reward points, for instance, you can get beneficial features attached to your banking account in addition to receiving cash back on the purchases you make with your debit or credit cards. You’re essentially getting paid for buying things, which is a win/win situation.

Look into Reward Cards

Many of your favorite stores also offer reward programs. You know all those little cards attached to your key chain? They lead to tons of great freebies. If you have a reward card for your favorite drugstore or retailer, you can acquire points with each purchase; get enough points, and you can buy something for free. You might have to buy ten packs of diapers to get one free, for instance, or you may get to choose your own reward. Other programs take discounts off your purchases, so with the right coupons, you end up getting items for nothing.

Take Advantage of Frequent Flyer Programs

Flying is expensive, so of course you’ll want to fly for free. Once more, look to Internet banking if you’re freeloading your way to success. Several credit card companies and banks offer frequent flyer programs that work like cash back reward programs. If you make purchases with the card tied to the frequent flyer program, you’ll start saving up your miles. If you buy enough items over a long enough period of time, you can theoretically fly all the way to Australia or China without paying for your airfare.

As you can see, getting freebies is pretty easy as long as you figure out where to look. What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever gotten for free?

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The Best Money Management Tips for College Students and Recent Grads

The Best Money Management Tips for College Students and Recent Grads

Education budgetHow is it possible we can go through four years of advanced education and still have no idea how to manage money? But it happens all the time. Whether you’re a brand-new freshman living away from Mom and Dad for the first time, or you’ve earned your degree and are ready to take the world by storm, everybody can benefit from learning how to manage their finances.

Get Organized

In “40 Money Management Tips Every College Freshmen Should Know,” ScholarShop and the National Endowment for Financial Education suggests students purchase a locking file box and a bunch of file folders. Label the folders with different categories and then get to it—got outstanding bills to pay? Stick them in a folder marked “bill payments.” Since credit scores often hinge on bills being paid in a timely manner, it’s crucial you stay on top of this important responsibility.

Label other folders with topics like this:

  • Financial aid—For info on any scholarship amounts, award letters and other pertinent information
  • Tax-related paperwork—Perfect for storing W2s and other tax information
  • Loan and credit records—For anything and everything to do with student loans, car loans and credit cards

Set aside a couple of hours now to get a system, and then use it. This will pay off big time.

Credit Ratings

Now is the time to establish good credit and develop habits that keep your credit score as high as possible. College students or graduates who need a car may not qualify for a loan if their FICO score is too low. There’s a Toyota dealership in Dallas that offers rebates on new cars to college grads, and applicants with high credit scores stand a better chance at approval than someone with a low score.

Take a Second Look Once You Graduate

As Forbes.com points out, pay special attention to anything having to do with student loans once you graduate. Some graduates may have as many as a dozen loans to keep track of. Maintain a list of all of your loans, including loan numbers, balance and due dates. This will help you keep everything straight and ensure payments are made in a timely manner.

Once everything is organized, come up with a rock-solid plan on how you will cover your payments. Forbes points out that many borrowers miss their very first payment, often because they are short on funds. Since it is imperative to keep up with college loan bills, graduates should put each due date on their calendar, and plan on sending off payment about a week ahead of time. Money can be in short supply for many college students and recent graduates, but with some pre-planning and organizing, you can save yourself a lot of future trouble.

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