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Archive | February, 2013

Tackling The Financial Aid Award Letter – Infographic

Tackling The Financial Aid Award Letter – Infographic

Tis the season for Financial Aid Award Letters to be making their way through the mail to high school seniors across the nation. Some families/students are well versed in how to navigate the various aspects of a financial aid package but for others this could be a challenging educational journey. provides some great resources for families that need guidance on deciphering their financial aid awards and the following infographic (created by Citizens Bank) is an informative visual tool to reference as well. Ultimately, the goal for a family is to have a solid understanding of what each college is offering in the form of financial assistance. That knowledge will bring them one step closer to making their final decision before “National College Enrollment Deposit Day“!

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11 Quick Tips To Stretching Your Dollars During College

11 Quick Tips To Stretching Your Dollars During College

Here are a few money saving tips that you should seriously consider if you want to make it through college without having to borrow money from your parents or a credit card. As a student, your expense budget is limited, but you can make it go a long way if you are prepared to make a few sacrifices. You may have to go from eating organic beef to farmed pork, or you may have to have a smaller cheaper dinner and make up for it at teatime. Here are a few ideas you can use which will not put too much of a dent in your pocket or your good mood.

Take part in any free campus activities

There is often something going on that has been set up by some well-meaning professor. Track down the cheap or free events set up on/by the campus and try them out.

Take out as much money as you need

It is hard to be swept away in a purchase that you really want if you do not have the money for it. If you leave the house every morning with the right amount of money you need, and no more, then you will not give yourself the opportunity to overspend.

Pay for things with cash not card

This goes for credit cards and bankcards. If you are using a credit card then the temptation to spend is simply too much. If you are using a bankcard then you have access to all your money and you may not be able to resist the temptation to spend.

Learn how to enjoy outdoor activities

Sometimes it is more about the company you keep than the setting. If you have student friends, then they will be on a budget too. Consider outdoor activities from soccer to parks.

Downgrade your expectations to save money

Don’t go to a restaurant, go to a café. Don’t stay in a hotel, rent a caravan. Don’t buy pork chops, eat burgers.

Visit bars during happy hours but beware

You can get cheaper drinks during happy hour but do not forget that the pub/bar is hoping you will get drunk and keep on spending. You must limit the amount of money you take out with you.

Don’t buy cable or satellite TV

It is expensive and very unnecessary. All you need is DVD’s or videos from the Internet. You do not need anything further. Some online videos are better than online tutoring, and you can get them free.

Consider playing sports instead of spending money

Play soccer or football with your friends. Go for a swim in your local lake or play volleyball. Think of all the games that you can play for free, and then give them a try if you truly wish to save money.

Carry larger bills and save change

Carry larger bills because for some reason it is always harder to spend them. You should also make a point of saving loose change; otherwise, you will find a way of spending it.

Budget for your entertainment needs

This involves getting a few prices; it does not involve setting aside a stash of money. Figure out how many drinks you will have in a night, and how much they cost, and how much the taxi ride will be. Figure out how much the cinema ticket will cost, and how much money you will spend on Wal-Mart candy that you are going to sneak in.

Apply for free tickets to TV shows

Sometimes you can get free tickets to recordings of TV shows. Look online for any in your area and attend.

Today’s guest article comes from Maria C. She is a writer for Scholar Advisor, a well known education portal.

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Are You Eligible For The Federal Pell Grant?

Are You Eligible For The Federal Pell Grant?

The Federal Pell Grant serves as a great resource for students to obtain funding to help offset college costs. The maximum amount of Pell Grant currently available to a student on a yearly basis is $5,645 (which is an increase of $95 from last year – woot!?). In many cases, the Federal Pell Grant in conjunction with the Federal Direct Student Loan Program can easily cover all the tuition costs incurred by a student depending on the college or university they choose to attend.

Even though the Pell Grant is a very common term in the higher education community – that was not always the case. The following is a quick timeline of the how the Federal Pell Grant program came to be known:

  • 1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson implements the Higher Education Act which includes federal grant and loan support for college bound students
  • 1972 – Senator Claiborne Pell (Rhode Island) initiates a reformation of how federal aid is distributed
  • 1978 – President Jimmy Carter signs the Middle Income Student Assistance Act and provides additional support for more educational grant monies to be made available
  • 1978 – In honor of Senator Pell’s work on this education funding initiative the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant is now referred to as the Pell Grant.
  • 1978-1979 – The average Pell Grant was $814 and it was awarded to 1,893,000 students
  • 2010-2011 – The average Pell Grant was $4,115 and it was awarded to 8,873,000 students

Now that you know the history of the Pell Grant, what is in it for you utilizing today’s figures? The calculation that decides how much Pell monies you are eligible to receive comes from doing your FAFSA each and every year. The Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) number that is generated dictates the amount of Pell Grant funding you will receive. So, once you know your EFC number, you can utilize the following chart to determine how much Pell Grant you will qualify to receive. The most you can get is $5,645 and the least you can get is.. well… ummm.. zero..  And yes, it is probably important to mention that if you are reading this article from the confines of a jail cell, you are not eligible for the Pell Grant. However, you may have other options at your disposal.

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Tuition Guarantees – Helping To Manage College Costs

Tuition Guarantees – Helping To Manage College Costs

There’s no two ways about it, college can be extremely expensive, leading many students to graduate with staggering amounts of student loan debt that takes years or even decades to fully repay.

The high cost of college is definitely a worry for many students, especially since it isn’t unusual for colleges or universities to raise their tuition rates from semester to semester. These increases in tuition make it extremely difficult for students to effectively budget for educational costs, leading some to graduate with much more student debt than they’d initially predicted.

However, while the cost of college is always going to be pricey, there is an extremely reliable way to budget for and plan for your educational costs: the tuition guarantee.

What is Tuition Guarantee?

Tuition guarantees “lock in” your tuition rate for the duration of your degree program. Tuition guarantees are now being touted by many colleges and universities (both by online and traditional brick-and-mortar schools) as a way to ensure that their tuition rates won’t change from semester to semester, allowing students to determine the total tuition costs of their college education at the outset, rather than being surprised with higher price tags at the end of it all.

Tuition guarantees may have certain conditions attached to them, such as requiring that the degree be completed within a certain timeframe or that the student remain in good academic standing for the duration of their degree, but at least they protect students from rapidly rising tuition rates. Overall, tuition guarantee are an extremely appealing incentive for students who can’t afford to leave their college costs up to guess work.

Why Attend a School that Offers a Tuition Guarantee?

Tuition guarantees are basically the only way to accurately plan, budget and pay for an education as they allow students to know exactly how much tuition will be owed up front and from day one. This means that there won’t be any unexpected financial surprises along the way, since students won’t have to worry about tuition rates suddenly increasing due to inflation, financial crises or other unforeseen events.

To put this into perspective, the average public college experiences an 8% increase in tuition rates each year, which means you could easily save thousands of dollars over the course of your degree by choosing a program that offers to freeze your tuition rate based on the first years’ cost.

The average tuition rate for a public four-year university was around $8,244 in 2011. Given the 8% increase in tuition every year, if you started school in 2011 by the time you start your last year of school in 2014 you would end up paying just over $11,000 for your final year. That is a huge increase from your freshman tuition rate.

Attending a program with a tuition guarantee doesn’t just help you plan for the costs of your collegiate career, but in virtually every case, it will save you thousands of dollars.

How to Find Schools Offering Tuition Guarantees

Unfortunately, not all colleges and universities offer tuition guarantees, so you’re going to have to do a bit of online digging to find those that do offer this great money saving incentive. A simple Google search should reveal some of the top tuition guarantee programs out there, and is likely the best way to find schools providing this option to their students.

In addition to doing your own research, consider consulting your high school or other educational advisor to see if they have specific suggestions for schools offering the benefit, as this is an important option that they shouldn’t be overlooking.

Tuition guarantees can save you money on your degree, allow you to more effectively budget the overall costs of your college education and reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that you’ll experience while in school. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking this advantageous educational opportunity, as you could stand to sacrifice thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for neglecting to do so!

Today’s guest article is provided by Kar Strout

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How to Choose a Study Abroad Destination

How to Choose a Study Abroad Destination

Depending on the day, year or the result of the latest uprising, the world is made up of approximately 190 countries. So if you want to study abroad, it can be difficult to pick a destination. But when you think carefully about your professional objectives and your financial goals, it can help you zero-in on the right country for your study abroad experience.

Your goals

What exactly are you planning to get out of studying abroad? If you are hoping to become fluent in, say, French, then choosing a program in Paris will force you to pick up this language quickly in order to communicate. If on the other hand, you have an interest in learning French, but your degree is in wildlife conservation, you might be better off heading to Madagascar, where one of its official languages is French, but where you can also study lemurs in their natural habitat. Most students only have one opportunity to study abroad, and if that is also your case, take the time to carefully consider what program and country will give you the best experiences to complement your chosen major.

Culture clashes

Be honest with yourself. If you have never been to a big city or have never traveled out of the United States, you may be more comfortable in an English-speaking country, such as the United Kingdom or Australia. In either country, you’d still need to adjust to a different culture, but that’s easier for some people when there’s no language barrier.  Heading to Tokyo, however, could be sensory overload for you if you don’t speak the language.  You might have a hard time learning how to navigate this bustling city’s transportation system and dealing with the crowds.

Also consider whether you would be bored in a study-abroad program in a rural setting; some people find it hard to live without city amenities. While these may sound like minor considerations, they are the types of things that could cause you to become homesick and undermine the enjoyment of your study-abroad program.


Before choosing a study-abroad program, check the U.S. State Department’s website for current travel warnings. While your dream may be to study architecture in Egypt, given its current unstable political climate, this may not be the best time to take courses in this nation.


Once you have chosen a country for your study-abroad program, you should speak to an adviser to verify that any credits you earn overseas will be transferable. You will also need to make sure your passport is in order obtain international student medical insurance to cover your healthcare needs. Finally, if you are currently renting an apartment, look into subletting, so you won’t be paying double for accommodations when you’re overseas. Arrange to pay any repeating bills – like car insurance and electrical service – before you leave.

Studying abroad is a great way to broaden your horizons. Not only will you be working toward your degree, you’ll be gaining experience that makes you a much more attractive candidate, when you begin searching for a job. Prepare in advance for your trip, so you can make the most of your experience overseas.

Today’s guest article comes from Kristine Esser.

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Four College Classes You’ll Regret Not Taking

Four College Classes You’ll Regret Not Taking

Unlike high school, when you are in college, you are free to make your own choices when it comes to what classes you do or do not take. Beyond your required core classes and a few required electives for your major, it is up to you to choose electives that will give you the education you want and need to succeed in your chosen field.

Most colleges require you to limit your electives to certain areas, depending on your major. However, you will always have a few “free” choices that are entirely up to you. It is tempting for many students to take classes in which they know they can succeed. After all, if you take classes that will be easy for you—a basic writing course if you’re an English major, for instance—it will raise your GPA and remove some of the stress you may be feeling as you deal with your major coursework.

However, it may be a mistake to opt for the easy classes when there are other classes that can truly benefit you once you graduate. Here are a few courses you might want to consider taking if you have free time in your schedule. These classes are guaranteed to benefit you when comes to your career, and for life in general.

General Finance

A general finance class is by far one of the most valuable classes any student can take. According to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals over 50 percent of U.S. adults admit they do not have a budget, over one third of adults do not pay their bills on time, and nearly 40 percent of adults report that they do not have any non-retirement savings. This information, combined the ever-increasing amount of student loan debt (the average college graduate owes $26,000), highlights the importance of financial literacy. Whether you’re an English Literature major or Business major, every student should seek out some kind of general finance class.  Not only will many of these classes offer a basic understanding of the economy, but many will offer lessons on credit and money management.

Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, requires all students to take a “financial sophistication” course. This course offers students information on budgeting and goal setting, and buying their first car, among other things. While Champlain College is the only college in the country to make a financial literacy class mandatory, in light of the nation’s ever-increasing debt, more universities may follow suit.

Taking a finance class may require you to stretch your abilities into an area that is uncomfortable for you, but your hard work will pay off in your ability in later years to grasp basic financial concepts.

Art History or Appreciation

You may think of art appreciation as a “fluff” class, but there are benefits to learning about general art history and the development of mankind’s means of artistic expression. An appreciation of art is the key that opens doors to many different types of interactions. Art is a common language that may enable you to talk to people with whom you have little in common—many of them people who may be able to help you with your career goals.


You may have taken a required composition course as a freshman, but few people who dislike writing go on to study literature in any depth. This is a shame, because most literature courses require students to complete a great deal of analytical reasoning, and writing—skills which are becoming increasingly important to employers. According to a study conducted on behalf of The Association of American Colleges and Universities, 89 percent of employers say that the ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, is a desired trait in workers, and that colleges should place more emphasis on these learning outcomes.

You could choose a literature course that focuses on almost any topic in the world, including literature of various ethnic groups, poetry, or post-modern studies. Think about the type of things you like to read and sign up for a literature course that covers those topics.

Foreign Language

Only 50 percent of universities require that students take a foreign language course to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and some universities allow students to pass on taking a foreign language course if they can prove they are proficient in a second language. If you did not have to meet a foreign language requirement to get your degree, you probably feel lucky; however, you may have missed out on a career-builder that will pay off in benefits for years to come.

You may find that you are able to secure a job simply because you have a working knowledge of a popular foreign language; at the very least, you will be able to communicate with more potential clients or customers because of your language abilities. While students looking to work in politics or business may find a foreign language especially useful, being multi-lingual can make any applicant more competitive. Being able to speak more than one language may help you in other areas, as well—one study found that bilinguals may be better than monolinguals at solving certain mental puzzles.

Computer Science

If you are in one of the humanities or social science majors, taking a specific computer language or programming class may not have crossed your mind. Visit your college’s computer department and talk with a professor or advisor about a class or two that may help you with your future career, and then sign up as soon as you can. It may be challenging, but you will gain some valuable tools that may help you obtain promotions at work in the future. Forbes found that computer skills ranked fifth out of a list of the 10 most useful skills for new hires, with eight out of 10 employers preferring employees with basic knowledge of electronic equipment and hardware, including applications and programs. In a generation of graduates who are part of the technology era, simply being proficient in Microsoft Word may not make you as competitive an applicant as it used to. Look for programs or courses on campus that will help you become more familiar with html, software programs, social media, and other tools.

You can choose electives that will help you in the future and still provide some enjoyment during your college years. By stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on one (or all) of these courses, you may just be helping yourself in your job search for years to come. Many people these days are considering their career options and nursing is high up on the list of in-demand professions. You can learn more about nursing education at:

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The Rise of College Alternatives – Know Your Options

The Rise of College Alternatives – Know Your Options

These days, it seems more and more young adults are questioning the importance of a college education.  It is no wonder they have doubts about investing several years and thousands of dollars into a not very promising endeavor.  Consider the following:

  • The Bureau of Labor and Statistics recently made a prediction about the 30 jobs expected to grow at the fasted rate in the US job market over the next 10 years.  Of those 30 jobs, only seven usually require a Bachelor’s degree.
  • According to a recent study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, only 56% of students finish their Bachelor’s degree within six years.  Meanwhile, only 29% of students earn a two year degree in three years or less.
  • The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development shared that 43% of recent college graduates are employed in jobs that don’t require a degree.
  • The average college student will amass $25,000 in student loans, contributing to three trillion dollars worth of debt nation wide.

If an individual focuses on these statistics alone, it is easy to see how a college education no longer seems valuable.  However, there is one more thing to consider.

The Labor Department reports the unemployment rate among college graduates is just shy of 4%.  Meanwhile, individuals who only earned a high school diploma stand at an 8.4% unemployment rate.

What does this mean?  It means that, while a Bachelor’s degree might not be as valuable as it once was, some form of continuing education is worthwhile.

How to Proceed

First, students need to seriously consider what their interests and goals are.  Students need to ask the following questions to help narrow down future options:

  • What really interests me?  What could I see myself doing – happily – for the rest of my life?  Do my interests lie in an area that requires a college degree – like health care or education?
  • How do I like to learn?  Would I be able to stay focused and motivated with online learning?  Would I feel like a big fish in a little pond at a small, 2-year college?  Will I be lost in a sea of people at a large, four-year institution?
  • What financial limitations do I face?  Would I be able to get a student loan?  Is financing a college education even feasible?
  • How do my short term goals compare to my long term plans?  Can I reach my long term goals without a degree?  Would my future plans – like buying a house and starting a family – be hindered by thousands of dollars in student loan debt?

Since many people find the answers to these questions don’t lead them to college, what options are there?  How can a young adult pursue educational opportunities and enhance their future career prospects without the hefty price tag?

Here are eight options to consider?

1. Investigate the possibilities of a college-work program.

Some smaller schools offer a unique financing option.  Students are hired to work campus jobs as payment for tuition expenses.

2.  Consider attending trade school.

Trade schools are often the ideal situation for many individuals.  First, students learn basic professional skills in a short amount of time (two years or less).  Second, the instructors are usually highly experienced professions with actual experience in the field they instruct.  This isn’t always true of university and college professors.  Third, when trade schools partner with leading companies in the field, the training is usually very affordable – or free.

3.  Enroll at University of the People.

UoPeople is the world’s first online academic institution to offer a free educational experience.  Students can earn either an associate or Bachelor’s degree.  Courses are offered in Business Administration and Computer Science.

4.  Earn certifications.

Instead of earning a degree, young adults could earn certifications.  Certificates show a prospective employer the employee has basic skills and knowledge that puts them ahead of the competition.  It also shows a personal initiative.

Check online, at community colleges, or with government-funded programs.  Certifications are usually very inexpensive (often free), can be earned in less than a year, and involve a very flexible schedule.

5.  Teach yourself.

If you don’t have the desire or the means to attend college, there is no reason why you can’t still learn a few things.  Read blogs, books and trade magazines.  Attend industry conferences and trade shows.  Find business mentors to advise you.

6.  Sign up for an online course.

There are tons of organizations that offer courses online; most are very economical and some are even offered for free.  Check out Skill Share, MIT Open Courseware, Khan Academy, or Coursera.

7.  Find ways to get hands-on experience.

Before trying to land the ideal job, young adults might want to consider getting more experience under their belt.  A great way to do this is to volunteer for a global or non-profit organization, serve in the military, or work as an intern.

Even if there is no money to be earned, there is tons of valuable experience to gain.

8.  Start your own business.

Not all successful business owners have a college degree.  However, that doesn’t guarantee everyone who chooses this path will be a success.  For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are at least a thousand college-dropout entrepreneurs who have failed.

To tip the scales in their favor, prospective entrepreneurs should:

  • Advance with caution.
  • Create a solid business plan.
  • Analyze financial resources.
  • Determine a target audience.
  • Establish manufacturing and marketing plans.
  • Always have a contingency plan.
  • Remain enthusiastic, determined, and passionate.

Even if a business venture folds, there is still valuable career experience to be had.

Are you at the pivotal moment in your life where you are debating the best educational path to take?  Do you have an idea we haven’t mentioned here?  Let us know.  Do you have reservations about entering the workforce without a college degree?  Tell us how you feel in the comments section below.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Steve Aedy. He is a full-time freelance writer for, a company that provides online college essay help and editing services. He likes to write on education, politics and social media related issues.

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Using Pinterest to Design Your Dorm on a Dime

Using Pinterest to Design Your Dorm on a Dime

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networking sites in the history of social media. If you are not familiar with Pinterest, it is a free site that anyone can sign up for. When you sign up, you have “boards” that you can pin pictures too. The different boards are fully customizable and allow you to organize your photos into categories. The site also allows you to view and follow others’ boards. Then you can like their images and even repin them to your own boards. Many users have amassed hundreds of different boards and thousands of pictures. Pinterest really lends itself to fashion, design, and food. Businesses have got in on the action as well, especially companies that specialize in those three key main areas.

That makes it very easy to find ideas when it comes to decorating your living space. It is especially great when you are trying to find specific designs and décor for challenging spaces on a budget, like your dorm room, for example. Searching on Pinterest quickly gives you tons of ideas in a very visual way. You can immediately begin brainstorming and repining onto boards that you can organize according to color, product, or category. Performing a search for “Dorm Design Ideas” will yield a plethora of cute and fun ideas that will show you how to save on space, since maximizing your space is essential for decorating a dorm room. You will see some really great space saving ideas like incorporating drawer space under the bed and adding shelving above the bed as part of the headboard. Coordinating designs with your roommates will also save you money when bulk buying is an option. Another search for “Dorm Craft Ideas” will show you hundreds of ideas for adding accents and decorations for very little cost. This is also a great way of personalizing your dorm room and bonding with your room mates. Great ideas like picture collages, designing your own lampshades, and making personalized pen and pencil holders are abound on the social networking site.

Designing your dorm room doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Ideas from Pinterest really make it easy to have a special, unique and personalized space, which is so important when you are away from the comforts of home. Getting a dorm room design on a dime that is within your style and taste is definitely within your reach when you use the power of crowd sourcing ideas on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Amanda Green. She is the author and Brand Manager for RHL, a leading online supplier of dorm bedding. She enjoys writing about college and dorm life.

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