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Archive | September, 2015

How College Students Can Avoid Identity Theft

How College Students Can Avoid Identity Theft

Each year, some 15 million Americans are the victims of identity theft, costing them upward of $50 billion in financial losses, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This makes it one of the most wide-ranging and costly crimes in modern life.

What makes it most frightening is that everyone is at risk. Although you may think that this crime mostly affects the elderly and the careless, it hits every segment of the population. If a criminal gets someone’s name, address, bank account, online password and Social Security number — or any combination thereof — that person can become a victim. And students heading off to college need to be especially careful to keep their identities safe. Here’s how:

The Blank Slate Risk

In many ways, college students are more prone to attacks. Older professionals are accustomed to looking at their bank accounts regularly and notice when something is awry. But when ID thieves hit 18-year-old students who are not gainfully employed, they aren’t looking to drain his or her bank account. Instead, identity thieves tend to falsify forms to open new lines of credit in their names unbeknownst to them. And since they have little or no other lines of credit and may not apply for any loans for years, perpetrators can get away with their crime for a long time before it is uncovered.

Identity theft monitoring is a good idea for those with little established credit. This also means that parents need to teach their kids the importance of using strong passwords. There is no longer any excuse to simply use your favorite sports team’s name, your phone number or any word that is in the dictionary. Instead, use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that are difficult to crack.

Long-Lasting Effects for Teens

The effects of identity theft can be worse for students who are victimized. If a 55-year-old accountant falls prey to a perpetrator, he or she likely has plenty to fall back on: a home, a vehicle, a good job and a well-documented financial history. But when an 18-year-old has his or her financial future ruined, it can take years to fix the problems. With no established record to prove he or she can pay back debts, it can be nearly impossible to get loans or credit in the future.

Other Vulnerabilities

Students are at a greater risk for other reasons, too. Their environment and behavioral tendencies typically mean they are less careful with their personal information, and thus easier to exploit. For one, they live on a campus and with roommates — sometimes dozens of them if they live in a frat house or other group setting. While many people think that all identity theft comes from data breaches or hackers, it can be as simple as someone improperly disposing of bank account information. And in a dorm room, cards and documents are often easily accessible to anyone that is tempted to steal an identity.

Young people also tend to be careless. Students are less likely than older people to shred credit card offers or other sensitive documents. Students need to properly discard any papers that contain personal information of any kind. Even though they probably don’t have access to a shredder in a dorm room, scissors can work just as well.

Lastly, students are more apt to make online purchases and are less vigilant about protecting their privacy online. Those who grew up with the Internet don’t fear it in the same way that baby boomers do. But unfortunately, one misstep in which they put their ATM card number on the wrong website can cost them dearly. The same thing goes for social media. Students should not be too willing to share personal information with strangers just in case.

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Academic Necessities Meet Student Budgets

Academic Necessities Meet Student Budgets

StudentBudgetPicCollege students have to find all kinds of creative ways to stretch their budgets. Not only do they need to acquire all of the necessities to make it through another week, but they want to have just enough cash left over to actually enjoy the weekend. It can be tricky, especially if you’re in a new town with limited options. And who has time to shop around for the best price for toilet paper when you have three tests and a research paper due on Thursday? Luckily, the Internet exists to make finding a good deal easier than ever. In fact there are a lot of products that are typically cheaper when you buy them online. Here are just three necessities that students (and their parents) can purchase online to save a few precious dollars.

College Text Books

Every college student has a story about the $200 chemistry textbook they only used once and then sold back for pennies on the dollar. When you’re a new student, you can fall into the trap of thinking that your college’s bookstore is the only place you can purchase exactly the textbooks you need, but this isn’t true. Amazon has a whole section devoted to textbooks, in addition to Amazon Marketplace, where students can sell used textbooks for a slightly better price than the typical buy-back rate. It’s a win-win for buyer and seller. The one thing you need to be careful of is buying the correct edition of the book. Make sure you search by the exact ISBN number for your required textbook. If you search by title, you might end up with a very inexpensive and very worthless old edition.

Tires

Having a car on campus comes with its pluses and minuses. On one hand you have a level of freedom that isn’t available to all students. You can actually buy more than two bags of groceries at the grocery store, and you aren’t stuck waiting for the bus during a snowstorm. It’s also going to do wonders for your popularity with your carless coeds. However, owning a vehicle means you’re always susceptible to the sudden expense of maintenance. There’s nothing worse than having your car fail inspection because the tires have worn down. Just like that, a routine visit to the mechanic has turned into an $800 bill. But don’t let that red inspection sticker of doom force you into overpaying. TireBuyer.com has a full range of tires in popular brands and are priced to beat any local auto shop or big box store. It also offers free delivery, and can send your tires to a local installer. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Contacts/ Glasses

Be warned: Your college dorm is going to eat your glasses or contacts. Between your cramped living space and your shared bathroom, it’s very likely that you will lose or accidentally destroy your glasses and contacts at least once (a semester). Just because you like and trust your eye doctor doesn’t mean you have to pay his premium price to replace this stuff. Take the time to shop around. You’ll most likely find that DiscountContactLenses.com and Warby Parker will save you a lot of money, perhaps even several hundred dollars. These companies even contact your optometrist for a copy of your prescription. Saving money on a trendy new pair of glasses means you don’t have to feel quite so bad when you step on them after a hard night of studying.

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CheapScholar Announces 2015 Scholarship Winner!

CheapScholar Announces 2015 Scholarship Winner!

collegedegree1It has been a very busy and exciting year for CheapScholar.org. For those that don’t know, CheapScholar.org was “born” in January of 2010 as I took my passion for educating families and students about the financial aspect of the college experience to an entirely different level – the web. Since that time, CheapScholar has reached hundreds of thousands of visitors, provided support in the form of scholarships, delivered up 830 informative articles, and traveled the countryside providing Paying For College and Professional Development presentations for high schools, foundations, corporations, and organizations. I truly enjoy volunteering my time and expertise on this endeavor!

Whether you have utilized our Scholarship Resource Page, downloaded our free Paying For College Toolkit for guidance counselors, stayed connected to industry news via our College Pulse news aggregator, stopped by to enhance your financial literacy by playing Financial Football, or are just staying social via our Facebook and Twitter feeds, we are glad that you have found CheapScholar.org and made it a part of your day.

One of the greatest accomplishments that CheapScholar.org recently achieved is awarding our fourth “How Do You Make College Cheaper?” scholarship. It has always been my goal to help students make their way to college through the information and resources provided here on CheapScholar.org but I also wanted to help by providing financial support via a scholarship!

I am pleased to announce that Jasmine Trickler is the 2015 scholarship recipient. Ms. Trickler is attending Eastern Washington University and I hope this scholarship gets her one step closer to achieving her educational goals.

If you would like to learn more about Jasmine, please take a moment to read through the bio she submitted to us to share with our readers. As you will see, this year’s scholarship found a good home with Jasmine.

Jasmine Trickler (2015 Scholarship Winner)

JasmineTricklerScholarship

I graduated from Joel E Ferris High School and I started classes at Eastern Washington University this fall. Ever since I was a little girl, I always told people that I was going to be a “woman doctor” (OB/GYN). I stuck with that idea throughout my life until I recently developed a love for the study of the human body, as a result of taking a Sports Medicine course my senior year. My plan is to major in either Athletic Training/Exercise Science or Physical Therapy and minor in Spanish Language. Although high school has been full of trials and tribulations, I wanted to be successful and prosper, and I knew college was the way to do that. The one thing that has always been a roadblock is money. That’s why I enlisted in the Navy Reserves. My ship date is December 21st, 2015. After RTC and A School, I will be serving one weekend a month as a Cryptologist Technician-Networks (computer science), while still attending college and working toward my degree. There’s no way I could have made it this far without the support of my family and best friend, Nichelle. I have 7 younger siblings that I am trying to set an example for and an older brother that I look up to. In Kindergarten, I fell in love with my current boyfriend of two years, Nick. He enlisted as an active duty Mass Communication Specialist in the Navy and ships in three months. I am so proud of myself and the decisions I have made in the past year. I know I am going to go far! I am grateful for this scholarship because it will get me that much closer to my biggest dream of all;to  get married, live in a big house with two beautiful children, and raise chickens and goats! Thank you Cheap Scholar, for helping turn my dreams into reality. “She turned her cant’s into cans and her dreams into plans.”

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Tips for a Successful Start to the School Year

Tips for a Successful Start to the School Year

CollegelifeThe back to school tip lists are rolling out in droves, with most concentrating solely on little scholars and their parents. But newly grownup students are also coming down from summer’s high and filing back into classrooms all over the world, and the back to school transition can be a tough one when it’s entirely your responsibility.

Your first couple of weeks back at college (or in those hallowed halls for the first time) will probably be the hardest but they are also the most crucial. Crush the first month and you set yourself up for success in this and future semesters. Here are just some of the ways you can prepare yourself – mentally, physically and financially – for the most epic school year ever.

Talk (or think) about money

Even if parents are covering 100% of college expenses, it pays to talk money. The cost of higher ed goes beyond tuition and fees. There are books to buy and students still need to eat when they’re living away from home. Cars cost money to maintain and weekend entertainment is probably going to be a part of your budget. Don’t end up in debt before you get the diploma! Make a budget and decide whether or not you’ll work while studying in advance so you don’t have economic stress (now quite common) on top of your school stress.

Look for device deals

Even though taking notes by hand has been shown to increase data retention, a quality tablet is definitely a must-have for both work and play. Carriers like T-Mobile are almost always offering some kind of promotion, whether it’s a back-to-school deal or something like T-Mobile’s current offer of a free year of Netflix when you purchase a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge.

Optimize your sleep cycle

When summer’s fun ends it can be a real shock to the system. Avoid exhaustion by making a point of getting to bed at a reasonable hour beginning a few weeks before the term starts. You get bonus points – not to mention a better chance of earning those As – if you wake up at a reasonable hour, too.

Adopt new, more organized habits

Use a planner. Set reminders. Pick a spot in your room and create a study zone with everything you need to stay focused. Create a routine. Put study time (and exercise) on your to-do list. Make procrastination impossible with apps like Procraster. Sure, none of this sounds sexy but if you’re completing your assignments on time and pulling great grades, you’ll have plenty of time for the sexy stuff after hours.

Plan ahead to stay safe

You can’t concentrate on your studies when you don’t feel comfortable in your environment so get to know your campus by doing a few daytime walking tours. And get familiar with your school’s safety resources, like how to dial campus security and where to find help at night.

Take advantage of orientation

Whether you’re a returning student or a fresh out of high school freshman, there are usually plenty of activities on campus designed to help you make new friends and get acclimated. Be outgoing. Ask questions. And look into mentorship if this isn’t your first year but you still feel adrift. Mentorship programs can help you get the most out of your major, connect with more classmates and really feel like a part of your college community.

Remember, college life is exciting. There’s so much that’s new – and not just the academics! Jump into the fun stuff feet first but keep in mind that your education should be top priority. Make time for friendships, social events and just plain chilling out, but think in terms of balance. You can make the grade without sacrificing the full college experience with some forethought and a willingness to follow through when it counts.

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