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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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Do You Need a Criminal Justice Degree to Become a Police Officer?

policeofficerIf you want a career as a police officer, you might be wondering whether college is worth it. You can try to get an entry-level job without a degree, but you find yourself getting passed over for promotions later if you don’t complete your education now. Earning your criminal justice degree gives you a lifelong competitive advantage, so the short-term costs are worth the reward.

Becoming a Police Officer

Requirements for becoming a police officer differ slightly from place to place, so it’s important to check with your local or state police department to find out what they expect. However, some requirements are the same no matter where you apply:

  • Age. Police officer candidates must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Citizenship. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, and they must have driver’s licenses.
  • Physical preparedness. Most police departments require job candidates to pass vision and health screenings. They also require police officer candidates to meet certain requirements for strength and agility.
  • Education. A police officer must have at least a high school diploma or GED. However, police academies are increasingly requiring officers to have some college coursework, a bachelor’s degree or an MS in Criminal/Social Justice (to learn the variety of fields you can work in with a degree, visit this page).
  • Character tests. A criminal conviction, such as a felony, can keep some people from becoming police officers. Candidates often have to pass drug tests and lie detector tests throughout their training.

Career Options in Law Enforcement

In addition to making it easier to become a patrol officer or corrections officer, a criminal justice degree builds a foundation for many different law enforcement career paths. Check out some of these more advanced career options:

  • Private investigator. After working as a police officer for a few years, you might decide to become a private investigator. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for private investigators will grow a whopping 21 percent over the next decade, and PIs can expect an average annual salary of $50,780.
  • Probation officer. Probation officer demand is expected to grow 18 percent over the next decade, and a probation officer, on average, makes $52,380 each year.
  • Crime scene investigator. If you’ve ever watched CSI and thought, “I could do that,” then a criminal justice degree can lead to a job as a crime scene investigator. Demand for crime scene investigators should grow 19 percent over the next decade, and if you choose this job, you can expect to make about $55,730 each year.
  • Paralegal or legal assistant. Lawyer job openings are growing no faster than average, but experts expect paralegal job openings to grow at an astonishing 18 percent over the next decade. Paralegals require less training than attorneys, and they can expect to make about $50,220 per year.
  • Retail loss prevention specialist. Combining your experience as a police officer and your criminal justice degree could allow you to transition to the private sector and work in retail loss prevention. Entry level positions start out at about $38,520 per year, but since you’d have your degree, you’d have a much better shot at leadership positions with higher salaries.
  • Intelligence analyst. Combine your criminal justice degree with knowledge of a foreign language or other specialized skills, and you could find yourself working in homeland security. Intelligence analysts earn as much as $86,000 per year.

If you start as a police officer and branch out into other areas, you can keep your career interesting while sticking with law enforcement for a lifetime. Earning your criminal justice degree gives you options later, which is why it’s a good idea to finish your education before becoming a police officer.

Choosing the Right Degree Program

If you’re just starting out as an adult and you’re interested in police work, look into schools that offer bachelor’s degrees. Alternatively, if you’ve already spent time in the workforce and you have a bachelor’s degree, apply to programs that offer master’s degrees in criminal justice. You can also learn more about criminal justice degrees and career options with this career guide.

Some schools allow you to take classes online, which lets you keep your current job while you train for your new career. If you’ve been dreaming of working in law enforcement, then apply to a good school today.

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5 Grad School Survival Tips for Full-Time Workers

AdultStudentAn advanced degree can increase your earning power and help you get ahead in your field by leaps and bounds. But in today’s economy, many full-time workers can’t afford to take time off to earn an advanced degree — even though it might be necessary for their career advancement. It might be challenging to find time to work and get a graduate degree, not to mention family and personal time, but it’s possible. You just need to choose the right program, plan carefully, get your boss and family on board with the plan and make your health a priority throughout the program, so you can maintain the stamina you need to succeed.

Choose the Right Program

A big part of succeeding in grad school while working full-time is finding a program that accommodates your work schedule. Online programs are an excellent option for any career path — when you go back to school online for a Masters in Criminal Justice, for example, you can gain the skills you need to advance into an administrative role on your own schedule. You could also consider a part-time program, or a full-time program that’s designed to accommodate the needs of working professionals.

Get Your Boss on Board

You can’t work full-time and earn a graduate degree without letting your boss in on the plan — whether you need to show up in person for classes in a brick-and-mortar setting, or you’re taking your classes entirely online. Talk to your boss about your grad school plans well ahead of time. If you’ve been out of college for a while, chances are you will need a letter of recommendation from your boss, anyway.

Make sure your boss knows exactly how your post-graduate studies can add to your value as an employee. The more your organization can benefit from your advanced education, the greater the chances your boss will work with you to accommodate your study needs. You might even get some company money to help finance your degree.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

If you want to find time to meet your work and family responsibilities while earning a graduate degree, you will need to plan study and personal time in advance. Even before you start grad school, sit down and work out a schedule to help you complete entrance exams and gather your application materials in time to meet the deadline. Once you’re in school, plan ahead to make sure you have time for important upcoming family obligations, like graduations, holidays and weddings, while still meeting the requirements of your program and your job. On a weekly basis, sit down with your day planner and schedule in time to study, time for your family and friends and time for yourself.

Use Vacation Time Wisely

When you’re a working adult in grad school, you won’t have time to pull all-nighters every time there’s a big project or test due. Stretch yourself too thin and your stress levels will skyrocket. Your job performance could suffer and you could even make yourself sick. However, you will probably still need to cram for tests and make time for big school projects.

By planning ahead, you can use your vacation days to take time off work when you know you’ll need to study for a big test or focus on completing a school project. Just make sure you ask for the days off ahead of time, instead of calling in sick the day before every exam. That way, your boss will remain understanding about your educational responsibilities.

Put Your Health First

Juggling the demands of a full-time work schedule with a full-time school schedule requires a lot of physical stamina. If you don’t make your health a priority, you’ll burn out quickly — and could even succumb to a full-on health crisis. Make sure you get eight to nine hours of sleep a night, eat a healthy diet, get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week and practice stress-management so you don’t get overwhelmed. You might think that you don’t have time to take care of yourself properly, but in fact, you don’t have time not to. If you neglect your health, you’ll soon find you don’t have it in you to fulfill your other obligations, either.

It’s not easy to manage the demands of grad school while working full time, but if can be done. All it takes is some careful planning and the willingness to make your education a priority.

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