06.13.12 | The Freshman’s Guide to Saving Money: Preparing for College

Posted in College Life, financial aid tips by Student Loan Network Staff

Relaxing with MoneyCongratulations!  You’ve been accepted to college, and, in a few months, you will be leaving home to start the next chapter of your life.  As someone who just completed his freshman year, I can honestly tell you that this past year has been the best year of my life.  However, it has also been the most expensive. I learned how expensive college is the hard way.  After having worked close to full time last summer, I had $3.14 in my bank account by the end of the school year.  My goal is to provide you with tips on how to minimize your costs without minimizing the college experience.

Purchasing books

Don’t buy books from your school bookstore unless absolutely necessary.  Websites such as Amazon.com and Chegg.com provide textbooks at a much more reasonable price.  Amazon also offers a feature referred to as Amazon Student, where students who register with a valid .edu address qualify for six months of free two-day shipping.

Before buying a book for class, check if your school library has it available.  I had to read a book every two weeks for one of my classes last semester, and I was able to find almost all of these books in my school’s library.
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05.23.12 | Save money with your student I.D.

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Savings AheadJust admit it, you’re jealous of children and senior citizens who get discounts on train rides and movie tickets, aren’t you? Well, you don’t have to be. Wherever you go to school and in any city across the United States, plenty of establishments will offer discounts if you show a school identification card.

College tuition and living expenses take enough of a toll on you and your family’s pocketbook, so it’s only fair students get a discount on daily activities and nightlife entertainment.

For discounts, here’s a list of places and things you should definitely use your student I.D. card for:

  • Airports, train and bus stations
  • Theaters and museums
  • Events, such as concerts, art shows and carnivals
  • Sports stadiums (for games or shows)
  • Electronics
  • Clothing
  • Food

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04.27.12 | Financial Literacy Series: Give me some credit!

Posted in College Life, Student Credit, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Piggy Bank SavingsWelcome to the last post in this month’s financial literacy blog series! We’ve previously looked at student loans basics and interest rates, and covered budgeting in college. Today, I want to tell you a little bit about credit and break down student credit cards. While credit cards are scary and troublesome for many people out there, they don’t have to be. It’s all about being responsible!

Credit — What is it?

Credit can be summed up as a person’s reputation with money. It’s used by banks, landlords, and even employer’s to judge a person’s financial reputation. This means the better credit you have, the more leeway you have when getting a car, house, student loan, or job. Having and keeping good credit can save you money on those big purchases in your life, not to mention saving you the stress that often accompanies credit issues!
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04.26.12 | President Obama slow jams the student loan news

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

I’m pretty sure the title of this post just about says everything I need to say about the following video. Obama + Student loans + music + Jimmy Fallon = Magic. Pure magic. Oh, and what’s even better? It’s actually informative if you want to know more about what’s happening in the world of Stafford Loans right now.

Well done Sirs, well done.

04.19.12 | Financial Literacy Series: Budgeting in college

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid, financial aid tips, Student Credit by Student Loan Network Staff

Piggy bank with chalkboardWhen I was in college, the last thing I wanted to do was keep track of my expenses and create a budget. Booooooring. But now that I’m an adult (though it rarely feels that way) I’m finding it more and more important to keep track of money going in and out of my accounts. I wish this was something I paid attention to in college, because for someone with my level of disorganization, these skills could have been immensely beneficial.

 

While budgeting has not come as naturally to me as it does to others, here are a few helpful tips that have ensured I stay profitable over the years:

Needs vs. Wants

This one I learned at a young age. Growing up, my parents made sure I understood the difference between needs and wants (to the point where I now get anxiety if I splurge on a “want”). Without going this far, it’s important to realize what is considered a need vs. a want. Is it something that is absolutely necessary for school/living? This is probably a necessity if it will help you survive at college. While you may want the top-of-the-line technology, can you make do with something less expensive? Probably. Reign in the expenses by sticking to the lower-cost necessities.
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12.09.11 | Obama holds roundtable discussion on college affordability

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid, News by Student Loan Network Staff

Presidential PodiumThis past Monday, President Obama held a roundtable to discuss the college affordability crisis. Attendees included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a dozen leaders in higher education from college presidents, to nonprofit heads. The list of attendees is noteworthy, because everyone in attendance has already made strides in making a college degree affordable and attainable for students.

For example, Dr. Robert Mendenhall, President of Western Governor’s University, was one of the presidents in attendance and has helped develop a tuition model unlike most others. Instead of charging tuition per credit, WGU charges a flat rate tuition for a six-month period. Here’s how WGU describes their tuition and costs:

“WGU treats all students as “full-time” and charges tuition at a flat rate regardless of the number of competency units (credit equivalents) attempted or completed by the student. The “standard term” is based upon a full-time enrollment of at least 12 competency units for undergraduate (bachelor’s) students and 8 competency units for graduate (master’s) students. Students who complete more or fewer units are charged the same tuition rates”

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10.21.11 | Homeward Bound: More Students Heading Home After Graduation

Posted in College Life, News, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Graduate pondering futureStudent loan debt in this country has not only surpassed credit card debt, but by the end of the year is expected to hit $1 Trillion! News sources nation-wide have picked up the story this week, calling attention to this outrageous number. It’s no wonder more and more graduates are moving back in with mom and dad.

In a recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, Staff Writer Kevin Fagan assesses the current state of living for graduates. In the article he writes,

“The U.S. Census Bureau says that from 2007, just before the recession hit, to 2010, a year after the recession officially ended, the number of adults ages 25 to 34 living with their parents shot up 26 percent, from 4.7 million to 5.9 million.”

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09.14.11 | Eating Cheaply on a College Budget

Posted in College Life by Student Loan Network Staff

NoodlesSeptember is an exciting time with all of the back to school chaos of getting settled in, making/reuniting with friends, and starting your classes and activities. This leaves little time to really watch what you’re eating, both for health and budget. While I’m no nutritionist, I can help you save money on the food you eat! Here are some low-cost ways to fuel up this coming year.

  • Stay away from frozen dinners. These can be as much as $5-$6 each! By making your own meals from scratch (while more time consuming) you can save big bucks, and stay healthier! You can buy enough pasta and veggies with that money to last for multiple meals, rather than that frozen, one-time serving.
  • If you’re on a meal plan, make the most of it! Avoid expensive items like fruit and buy these at a grocery store. Depending on the school, any unused meal plan money can be returned to you for other expenses. Of course, if your dining hall is a pay-per-entry style, stick a tupperware container in your bag and save your leftovers for later (if it’s not against your school’s policy)!
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09.02.11 | Back to School Financial Tips Special

Posted in College Life, FAFSA, Financial Aid, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

As you head back to school, some back to school financial aid tips…

  1. Make a budget BEFORE the semester begins. Figure out what kind of money you’ll be able to earn and what you’ll be spending and stick to it.
  2. Team up with a roommate, hallmate, or friends to enforce each others budgets. The power of the group works. Social financial apps like Wesabe, Mint.com, and Geezeo can help with this, too. Set a goal that you publish among your friends and stick to it. Set rewards for achieving those goals.
  3. Take a class online while everyone is out partying – or during a break.  If you take one class during one spring break and one class each summer – you can graduate a semester early!
  4. Go for a lot of walks on campus. You’ll meet a ton of new people, and you won’t have to spend money to do it. Being visible is the easiest way to meet new people. Want to meet lots of new people really, really fast? Volunteer at any kind of event, work at the help desk, etc. Be helpful and you’ll make amazing, fast connections that often endure long past college.
  5. Everything marked free isn’t. Beware of any free offer that requires you to sign up for anything. Not saying it’s bad, just know what you’re signing for like a stealth. Some of the best conversations you’ll have are on playgrounds. Hang out at places like that vs. cafes or other money-spending venues. Want to make your own game socially? Go off campus, wander around (with safety in mind) and find the best hangout spots in the town, then share them with friends. Museums, galleries or the city gardens as examples.
  6. Check your campus email every day. Financial aid offices often send notices to campus email addresses. Don’t miss a bill. If you’re technically savvy, just forward it to your other webmail account.
  7. Buy and bring to campus an indoor dryer rack. You’ll cut your laundry bill in half and the rack will pay for itself in weeks, especially if it’s around $18. You can find magnetic and closet-based systems for as little as $10 online.
  8. Bring resealable containers. I’m not saying bring them into the dining hall or anything but, you know.. Make sure you don’t skip meals if you’ve paid for them. That’s just throwing money away.
  9. Have a small lockbox in your dorm room. Keep your checks, debit card, etc. in there and locked up. Make it a combo lock so that if you lose your keys, you’re not out of luck. And it’ll make you think twice about reaching for the good stuff when you have an impulsive thought.
  10. If you have a student ID card that’s tied to any kind of financial account, punch a hole in it, stick it on your keychain, and put your keychain on a lanyard.
  11. Opt out of as many fees and unnecessary bills as possible, such as campus phone and TV service. Seriously, you have the Internet. What else do you need? Use free applications like Skype, change your mobile plan to unlimited calling if you call home a lot (and you probably will if you’re a first year student), use Hulu.com for television, and avoid those extra, unnecessary expenses.
  12. Shop around online for better textbook prices.
  13. If you’re living off campus and on a partial or no meal plan, sign up for the supermarket loyalty card plans, coupon hunt online, and get a decent meal plan together. Planning ahead a little will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on food.
  14. Set up an affiliate program during college and get your personal professional web presence going as soon as you can. You’ll have more free time in college than you will after college, so take the time to set up your blog, web site, LinkedIn profile etc. and develop professional contacts early. By the time you graduate, you’ll be way ahead of everyone else playing the resume cannon game. Get known for something in your field of study or focus early on.
  15. Keep hunting for scholarships! Pick a time each week, 1 hour per week, and apply for a new scholarship each week. I guarantee after a year you’ll be happy you did. Better yet, get some friends together and make it a social thing.

08.22.11 | What Not to Bring to College

Posted in College Life by Student Loan Network Staff

Students moving into college

This time of year, students are bombarded by back-to-school advertising offering dorm room essentials and must haves. While much of this can be beneficial, and in some cases necessary for college living, there are also a lot of superfluous items that students wish they had not brought to school.

Take, for example, my roller blades, which instead of getting me to and from class, remained in the trunk of my car for 3 semesters. These are just space-wasters, and as any returning college student can tell you, space is essential! So we’re asking all of you experienced students out there:

What should students avoid bringing to college?

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