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6 Ways to Alleviate Stress for College Students


It’s a cycle familiar to many college students: you’re stressed, so you buy something to help you deal, and you end up just feeling more stressed because you spent the money. Stress spending isn’t unique to college students, but due to the inordinate number of stressors inherent in college life, co-eds are especially susceptible. Beyond wrecking a budget, the problem with stress spending is that after the initial lift that comes with the purchase, you are still left with the underlying stressor. The best way to curb stress spending is to find ways to manage your stress. Here are six strategies for decreasing your stress level and keeping you out of erratic spending territory.

1. Sleep

College life is busy, and it can be hard to prioritize sleep when you have so much to do. There is a reason pulling all-nighters is almost synonymous with the college years. But not getting the required amount of sleep can lead to very real health consequences. Sleep deprivation can affect performance, cause anxiety, depression and increase the risk for heart disease and obesity. Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, preferably on a consistent schedule.

2. Move

Regular exercise is an amazing natural stress reliever. You don’t have to become a gym rat to reap the benefits of movement; just 20 minutes of activity a day will help reduce stress levels. The key to regular exercise is choosing something you enjoy, whether it is rock climbing or nature walks or yoga or pick-up basketball. Find something you like to do and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

3. Eat real food

Eating can become an afterthought when your schedule is packed, and it can lead you to skip meals and end up grabbing whatever is available on the go, usually highly processed and fatty foods. In fact, when you are stressed, your body craves food high in fat, sugar and salt. But eating this way consistently can lead to lowered immunity and sugar imbalances that cause mood swings, poor concentration and fatigue.

5. Limit alcohol

This one is hard for many college students to recognize. They see drinking as a means of stress relief, a way to blow off steam at the end of the day. But research has shown that drinking while your brain is under stress makes you more likely to turn to alcohol more often, leading to addiction and chronic health issues later on. Like stress spending, the temporary stress relief found after a few drinks doesn’t actually solve the core issue.

6. Get a pet

If the thought of coming home every day to an animal brings a smile to your face, you might think about taking the plunge into pet ownership. Pets can have real stress-relieving benefits. Researchers at Ohio State University found that students who live with a dog or cat were less likely to feel lonely and depressed. Of course, before you get a pet, you need to make sure you have the time, space and the right supplies (like rabbit cages for bunnies, leashes and dishes for a puppy, cat condos and litter boxes for kitties) to properly care for your animal friend.

The stress you feel as a college student is real and can lead to bad habits like stress spending. Work on decreasing your stress and curbing those habits with proper sleep, regular exercise, eating well, limiting alcohol and spending time with a beloved pet.

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3 Adulting Skills College Students Should Quickly Learn


As a new college student, you’re likely enjoying your first dose of freedom and independence away from home. For instance, college may be the first time you’ve had to do your own laundry, budget for weekly groceries and contemplate whether another bowl of ramen noodles or Lucky Charms will satisfy you for dinner (don’t worry, we won’t tell your mom).

As part of being more independent, it’s also important to learn some key adulting skills that go beyond basic classroom punctuality and keeping on top of your homework. For example, here are three adulting skills all college students should quickly pick up and learn.

1. Learn How to Maintain Your Car

While living under your parents’ roof, chances are your folks took care of paying for car insurance and regular vehicle maintenance. But now that you’re away at college, it will become important for you to learn how to care for and maintain your car. In addition to keeping you safe on the road, taking your car in for regular maintenance can prevent more costly issues from popping up later.

In particular, tire shops and mechanics will typically put stickers on the top left corner of your windshield, indicating by date or a certain mileage when you should bring your car in again for a tune-up or tire rotation. Along these lines, it’s also important to learn how to determine the age of your tires, as well as what type to purchase.

Not sure how to go about it? Look for the long-tail code comprised of 10 to 12 numbers and letters beginning with “DOT” on the side of each of your tires. The date when the tires were manufactured will make up the last four digits of the DOT code, with the first two indicating the week they were produced and the last two indicating the year.

For instance, if your tires include “0412,” then you know they were manufactured in January 2012. Still, even if you aren’t putting a lot of miles on your vehicle, experts still recommend that your tires be replaced every five to six years. With that in mind, make sure to keep tabs on your tires’ birth dates and celebrate the occasion by buying new replacements when needed.

2. Pay Your Bills on Time

Even if your parents are taking care of your tuition, room and board or rent and groceries, it’s still a good idea to look into paying for some of your own expenses. For instance, if you have a part-time job, tell your folks that you plan to pay for your own groceries, as well as fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.

Similarly, if you pay your credit card online, make sure to set up reminder notices to avoid a late payment; after all, it’s not uncommon for credit card companies to charge $35 or more, even if your payment is only a day late. While you can certainly arrange for the minimum amount to be automatically withdrawn each month from your checking account, you’ll want to be sure you have enough money to cover these and other bills, including your utility, water, TV, internet and trash providers.Â

Indeed, paying your bills on time will not only keep your lights and water on, but it will also help to simultaneously increase your credit score and teach you responsibility.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Yes, you can stay up until 3 a.m. every night if you want to, and yes, you can drink extra lattes to get you through your finals week. But as any parent or expert will tell you, learning how to balance your studies and social life and getting enough sleep can be a difficult proposition, but certainly one that will help you throughout life.

Instead of feeling tired, stressed out and more prone to becoming sick, getting enough nightly sleep will keep you on an even keel. Thus, try to limit your late-night partying and join a study group to help you get your homework done during the day, rather than procrastinating until 2 a.m. However, if your roommate is a night owl, use a white noise machine, run a fan, and/or invest in some quality ear plugs to help you fall and stay asleep.

Congratulations, You’re Well on Your Way to Adulting!

Your college years will fly by pretty quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be on your own in the real world. But by learning a number of key “adulting” skills now, you will be better suited to take on the many responsibilities of post-graduate life.

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3 Practical Transportation Options for Today’s College Student


For many young people, heading off to college comes with a lot of excitement, but also some burning questions to consider. In fact, many college-bound teens may ponder the following:

  • Where will I live?
  • Will it be difficult to make new friends?
  • Will I like my classes?
  • What the heck is a quad, anyway?

However, one of the more practical questions should include which mode of transportation you plan to use during your freshman year and beyond. Indeed, what was convenient and worked from the comfort of home may not be a practical or affordable on-campus option. Here are three standard modes of transportation that can help you decide the best option(s).

1. Car

A car is the most convenient and useful mode of transportation, but it may not always be the most practical on-campus option. This is especially true when you’re trying to find a reliable place to park and spending hundreds of dollars on a parking pass. Still, you should inquire about specific on-campus parking policies and perks. Some schools don’t allow freshman to have cars, but offer that opportunity for upperclassmen.

Next, consider your school’s location. While some colleges and universities may be better suited for cars, owning and driving one at urban campuses like NYU or USC may become more of a burden rather than a nice perk. Additionally, think about how your campus is situated and where you’ll be living. Is the distance far enough that you’ll need a vehicle to get from home to campus or to travel between classes? Is there ample parking available? Will you get bombarded with too many ride requests?

If you think having a vehicle is the right option for you, make a budget that includes all of the costs associated with owning and operating one on campus. In particular, make sure to budget for the following:

  • Monthly car payments
  • Insurance
  • Gas money
  • Repair costs
  • Replacement parts (like a new set of tires)
  • Routine maintenance (oil changes, fluid replacement, etc.)

2. Bicycle

For urban campuses, a bicycle might be the most practical mode of transportation. In fact, many colleges offer free or discounted bicycle-sharing programs. Knowing that, riding a bike might be the quickest, most efficient way to get around, particularly on closed campuses that don’t allow cars.

But you’ll still want to consider the distance between your dorm or apartment and where your classes will be held. Indeed, riding a bike on campus might be advantageous if your place of residence, nearby amenities (restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers) and the actual college campus are all located within a few miles.

Just be sure there are safe routes for bicyclists to ride near your campus. If your school is located somewhere that experiences snow, ice and overall cold temperatures during the winter, you’ll also want to consider whether there is affordable backup transportation on days when riding your bike just won’t cut it.

If a bicycle sounds like a great option, consider the following costs when putting together a budget:

  • Bicycle
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • A dependable lock and helmet

3. Public Transportation

If you’re attending college in a big city, public transit might be your best option to get around. But before you decide to commit to using only city buses, subways or light rail, make sure to map out your routes. For example, Google Maps is a great resource to determine if there are nearby routes to get you from your dorm or apartment to class in a reasonable amount of time.

Of course, if you decide to use public transit, make sure to check out the different pricing tiers to determine the most cost-effective options. Additionally, think about how often you’ll be using a particular service and whether investing in a pass makes good financial sense. But you might also want to ask around, as some colleges and universities offer free or discounted public transit passes.

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Essentials for Commuting Students


CollegeStudentsNot every student moves into the dorms when they go away to college. Boarding in a dorm costs about an average of $10,389 a year so it’s no surprise that many college students choose to stay at home and commute to school. Although commuting to school has an advantage when it comes to saving money, it has its own challenges, like making sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need for the day, having enough gas to get to school, or, if using public transportation, that you’ve timed your schedule right. Such challenges are easy to overcome with these essentials for the commuting student:

Public Transportation Musts

If you’re commuting on public transportation, you’ll want to make sure you have your bus schedule, along with any transfers, timed out perfectly so you don’t end up late to class. Download a public transportation app, like Moovit, for real time status updates so you can make it to your bus, train, subway, or trolley on time. Moovit even sends service alerts to let you know if there’s a delay or other issue, great for avoiding getting stranded or missing an important class altogether. Taking public transportation to college isn’t all bad, in fact it has many benefits, like reduced fuel consumption and reduced carbon emissions. Plus, commuting on public transportation provides college students a great opportunity to catch up on reading, assignments, and studying—just be sure to pack a pair of earphones to help block out noise of other commuters and traffic.

Car Essentials

If you’re driving yourself to school, there are some car essentials you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure you don’t get stuck on the side of the road or hit crazy traffic. Keep a set of jumper cables, and learn how to use them, in your car in the event your battery dies and your car won’t start. It’s also a good idea to keep a set of spare keys in your backpack in case you lose a set or accidentally lock them in your car. You should also make sure you have a full tank of gas to last you the week so you don’t have to stop by the gas station (especially if you’re running late) on your way to school. You might want to consider keeping a prepaid gas card in your glove compartment for when you run out of money and gas at the same time. Download a traffic and navigation map, like WAZE, to look for alternate routes to school in case of road blocks or other traffic problems.

A Durable, Comfortable Backpack

When you commute, you have to have everything you need for the day with you since there’s no dorm to run back and forth to. Unfortunately, that means you’ll need to be prepared to lug around heavy text books all day. One of the best ways to tote all of your books around is to get a seriously durable backpack. You’ll also want to make sure the backpack is comfortable, after all, you don’t want to kill your back carrying your books from one end of campus to another. You can help prevent back pain by evenly distributing the load, wearing both straps, and wearing your backpack 2 inches above the waist. Finding a backpack that will take weight off your back such as the Comet pack by Osprey, will make your gear feel like a second skin. Find one that has back comfort and safety, as well as durability, and padded straps for added shoulder comfort—your back will thank you later!

What to Pack in Your Backpack

What you pack in your backpack might change day-to-day, depending on your class schedule or after school plans. Regardless of your schedule or plans, some things that always come in handy and are absolutely essential for commuting students are device chargers, a water bottle, and sunglasses. Since it can be hard to predict how long you’ll be on campus, you don’t want to get stuck with a dead laptop or smartphone. Bring a charger for all your devices so you can plug in at the school library or cafeteria, or bring a portable charger to power up your phone anywhere. Keep a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated and save money. Try the S’well water bottle to keep your drink cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. Whether you drive or take public transportation to school, sunglasses are a must. Be sure to keep a classic pair of sunglasses on hand to keep the sun out of your eyes when driving (the sun can be blinding), and for looking good when walking to your classes.

Enjoy the Commute

Some may argue that living on campus is better than commuting, but commuting provides something life on campus doesn’t—a reprieve from being at school. So enjoy the commute, make a playlist of your favorite songs and turn every car ride into a karaoke party for one, until you make it to graduation!

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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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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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How Gaming Can Change the College Experience


chemblasterYou may have heard someone talk about the power of play, but chances are you didn’t associate that phrase with higher ed. New research is showing that when people treat life more like a game – and incorporate games into their daily lives, too – they can accomplish more for less. For the college student, that might mean more credits accruing with less time studying and (more importantly) less tuition paid because you’re earning your degree on time or even early. It’s called gamification, and it’s the newest strategy universities are employing to boost student interest, engagement and grades.

Researchers have known for some time that games can have a positive impact on learning in K-12 classrooms with higher ed students largely left out of educational studies. But today’ college kids are the original digital natives so it only makes sense that more schools are looking for ways to use games to motivate students and even teach them.

This is happening now largely because mobile and technology advancements have finally made gamification in education possible. Most students will have access to some form of device with mobile processing capabilities advanced enough to handle today’s games. And these are the same students for whom hitting the books frequently means firing up a tablet. Whether bringing games into the higher ed experience is about creating titles or tracking student habits to gamify learning, more and more colleges are getting on board.

Penn State, for instance, created the Education Gaming Commons to both research the power of games to positively impact the student experience and to build educational games from scratch. One such game, ChemBlaster, teaches some of the basics of chemistry by turning tedious memorization into a more engaging and exhilarating experience that has the potential to keep students coming back for more study time.

This kind of play with a purpose may actually be doing double duty when it comes to helping students conquer college. Science is finding that gaming itself, whether educational or not, can have a positive impact on learning. A German study found that participants who played video games for just a half hour per day had more gray matter in the regions of the brain associated with the formation of memories and strategic planning. Fast-paced, action-packed games were in some cases even better than educational titles at boosting brain power because these types of games promoted faster learning and better data retention in some people.

Outside of the brain case, gamification in education can work wonders for a few very obvious reasons. First, if something is fun people will do it again and again. Staring at the periodic table will put you to sleep. Harnessing your growing knowledge of the period table to kick butt at a bubble shooter is anything but boring. Second, gamification can get a student’s competitive juices flowing, whether that means competing against oneself to rack up points or competing socially against fellow students. In either case the motivation is there to study a little longer and work a little harder.

Don’t expect that tomorrow’s students will be playing their way to degrees, however. Games are still very much seen as an add-on to a more traditional college experience – albeit an add-on that can speed your progress from the freshman 15 to Pomp and Circumstance. That said, the lecture, exercise and test progression that has defined coursework for hundreds of years may finally be evolving. And that in turn may make college easier, faster and cheaper for some as well as just plain more accessible for others.

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4 Ways to Move on a College Budget


Young men moving houseWhen it comes to moving at the end of a spring semester, whether it be out of a dorm, back home for the summer, or into a shared space with roommates for a few months, you can rest assured that it’s going to be one of the less enjoyable tasks you have to take on as the events of the semester draw to a temporary close.

Luckily, there are a variety of ways to hit the ground running when it comes to moving as a student, many without even breaking the bank if you take the right approach. A critical factor in moving successfully on a tight budget will be to plan ahead as soon as you can—read ahead for a rundown of tips on everything from packing wisely to planning out your itinerary.

Plan in Advance

The first thing you will want to do when planning a move is to assess a rundown of the essential supplies and preparations you’ll need. For starters, you’ll want to properly assess the total amount of goods you’ll be moving—this will determine everything from the amount of boxes and packing supplies you’ll need, to the type of moving services and equipment your move will require. Many moving sites offer packing calculators and similar tools to help you get an approximate idea of what to expect.

Assess Your Move

The size of your moving truck, fleet, etc. could vary based on how much you have, so you’ll want to know as soon as possible whether or not a moving company’s entry level truck works for you. College movers will often opt for a do it yourself moving approach with the hope of saving money—whether or not this is a good idea will largely come down to the size and distance of your move, so take the time to do some careful research beforehand.

Save Money on the Essentials

A key factor in budgeting your move will be to save money whenever you can. This won’t come naturally, so it might take some practice to strive for discounted or free supplies where applicable. Don’t underestimate the amount you can save by scoring free cardboard boxes—many department stores, warehouses, or similar places tend to throw out cardboard boxes in droves, and will be happy to part ways with huge numbers of them in exchange for you lugging them yourself. Buying boxes from your moving company might not break your bank, but you’ll appreciate the savings a lot more after it’s all said and done.

Recruit Plenty of Help

Along similar lines, recruiting help from any available friends and family can be a highly effective way to save on extra costs along the way, whether it be an extra hand helping you haul your goods, or an additional friend to make your road trip home into a buddy system effort—this can end up being the critical factor in a situation where you would otherwise have to pay for a full service moving package, special transportation interests, or more –having just a few extra friends on board to help you along the way can save you a surprising amount of money, in addition to saving you a great deal of stress and worry.

About The Author

Brian Wilson is a contributing writer and media specialist for the North American Moving Blog. He regularly produces content for a variety of lifestyle and home blogs, based around the transitional challenges which comes with migrating, settling into new homes, and more.

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