With summer well underway, you might not want to think about hitting the books again in the fall. However, if you take the right steps now, you could prepare yourself for peak productivity when you return to class. It’s easy to daydream about staying organized, planning for the future, and meeting all of your obligations, but none of those dreams will come to fruition unless you start strategizing.

Create Good Habits — and Stick to Them

When you want to create new habits, don’t postpone them until the first day of school. Instead, use the summer to hone your productivity skills, whether you’re working a part-time job, starting a new hobby, or leaning a foreign language. Set achievable goals for yourself, and celebrate each time you hit a milestone.

You might think that some people are just born with a natural ability to organize and stay productive, but you can learn those skills. As you practice, it will become second nature. If you struggle at first, keep a journal to help hold yourself accountable to your failures and your successes.

Leverage Smartphone Apps

That little device that never leaves the palm of your hand can do more than keep you connected to your college pals. Numerous productivity apps exist, so download and test a few on your smartphone. Use these apps to track your to-do list, keep up with your assignments, and manage your calendar.

Some students find that their productivity slips when they stress out. Fortunately, apps can also help you balance your budget and save money. For instance, you can use the CampusBooks app to find the best prices on textbooks in the fall.

Establish Boundaries

Unfortunately, most students don’t leave peer pressure behind when they walk across the stage at high school graduation and head to the hallowed halls of their chosen universities. When your friends want to stay up all night and party, you might find yourself tempted to join them.

To combat this pressure, set boundaries for yourself this summer. For instance, maybe you’ll reserve Saturdays and Sundays for recreation and socialization, but keep your weekday nights free for studying. If you’re clear about your boundaries, you can enforce them more effectively.

Go Analog

For some people, technology doesn’t enhance technology — it gets in the way. When using your smartphone or computer for its apps tempts you into conducting endless internet searches or checking your friends’ social media statuses, consider investing in a paper planner. If you’re on a budget, pick up a 50-cent notebook at the supermarket and turn it into a bullet journal.

Along those same lines, set limits for yourself when it comes to technology and media. For instance, you could check social media only once per day and turn off your phone’s text and email alerts.

Productivity isn’t an inborn talent that you can leverage from birth. Some people struggle for it, but you’ll thank yourself when you get your assignments turned in on time and never miss class because of poor planning. If you get in the habit this summer, you’ll nail productivity in the fall.


Have second thoughts about your liberal-arts degree begun to haunt you? It’s a common problem for students who declare a liberal-arts major and then hear rumors about poor employability and depressing income potential. To put your fears at bay, let’s look at some of the facts about liberal-arts degrees.

You’re in Good Company

Writing for Time magazine, Jack Linshi lists 10 successful CEOs of major U.S. corporations who started their professional lives with liberal-arts degrees. The list includes luminaries like Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Wojcicki, for instance, graduated from Harvard in 1990 with a BA in history and literature. History, in particular, has often received criticism as a degree with no future, but you can score plenty of well-paying jobs if you’ve discovered a passion for the past. Whether you teach history or become a corporate historian for a major company, you can easily earn a comfortable living. Of course, you could always become the next CEO of a major media company.

Creativity Has Become Currency

Regardless of your future career, creativity will serve you well. Maybe you’re a journalism or English major, for instance, and spend your holiday breaks reading everything you can find. You likely have a vivid imagination and a strong focus on small details. These creativity skills might make you more appealing to prospective employers — not less.

In fact, Fast Company reports that today’s top tech CEOs want to hire liberal-arts grads. They’re looking for professionals with liberal-arts training because the arts nurture creativity and encourage critical thinking. Liberal-arts degree holders often know how to develop new solutions for businesses and can wear multiple hats at their companies.

The World Has Gotten Smaller

The Internet and other technologies have made it easier to socialize and do business with people from different cultures. However, language barriers still exist, and people who can speak multiple languages hold tremendous value in business. Whether you want to teach English to children in a foreign country, communicate with non–English-speakers in a law office, or travel abroad as an interpreter, you have many options.

Furthermore, Rebecca Callahan, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Texas, reports that bilingual people often demonstrate “higher test scores, better problem solving skills, sharper mental acuity, and greater empathy.” These benefits can serve you well as you hunt for a job after graduation and negotiate for a raise in the middle of your career.

Passion Matters

Did you know that happy people enjoy higher income potential? Don’t pursue a STEM career just because you’re worried about employability. Forcing yourself to work in an unattractive field will simply depress you, and it could reduce your salary potential.

If you love the liberal arts, you’ll find a way to make your degree profitable. Since you’re pursuing your passion, you’ll find yourself happier, more contented, and less stressed.

Don’t panic about your liberal-arts degree. Instead, embrace your future in a field you love, and start making good things happen.


Credit cards can be useful financial tools, but they can also lure you into financial disaster. Too many young borrowers make mistakes that cost them dearly for years into the future. Apply the following tips to learn healthy credit card habits from the start.

Don’t Accept a Bad Deal

All credit card companies want to make profits, of course, but some do it in ways that seems tantamount to robbery. If you don’t have a credit history, you might be tempted to apply for credit cards all over the place — even if those cards come with outrageously high interest rates or annual fees. Apply only for cards you will actually use. Before you submit any applications, make sure you understand the card’s interest rate and whether it charges an annual fee. And don’t apply for a lot of cards. All of those applications go on your credit history as negative indicators, making it harder for you to borrow.

Don’t Overspend for the Sake of Getting Rewards

Rewards credit cards can provide you with cash back, fun gifts, and even vacations. However, you should never overspend just because you want to earn rewards. For example, if your monthly budget is $2,000, but have to spend $3,000 within a month to get a prize from your credit card, you’ll end up having to slowly chip away at that deficit — and pay interest on it. Your goal should be to pay the entire balance on your card each month. If you go into debt, make sure that it isn’t for frivolous reasons.

Check Your Credit Card Statements

Some stores don’t even require your signature for credit purchases if you spend under a certain amount, and how often do cashiers ask to see your ID? These practices are an open door for identity thieves. Learn about how to protect your sensitive credit card information.

No matter how diligent you are about safeguarding your credit card, however, it’s still possible that fraudulent charges will show up on your statements. Save your receipts and compare those receipts with your credit-card statement every month. Many credit and banking companies will monitor your card for suspicious charges, but don’t rely solely on their system.

If you have concerns about anything you see on your statement, contact the company immediately so they can put a freeze on your account.

Watch Out for Fees

Penalties for late payments are notoriously steep, so it is important that you pay your bill on time each month. You might even be able to set up automatic payments.

There are other credit-card fees you should watch out for, too. For example, there might be a charge if you want a card with a fancy design on it. There might also be fees for increases to your credit line, cash advances, balance transfers, foreign transactions, and going over your credit limit.

Don’t let the little piece of plastic in your wallet go from being a useful tool to a nuisance. Use your first credit card wisely, and you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of good credit.


If you have a lot of debt to pay off, you’re far from alone. According to a report from late 2014, 40 million Americans have student-loan debt. Even though you’re still in school, there is no time like the present to start tackling your student loan debt — along with any other debt you might have. But how should you go about paying off your debts?

Know Your Debt

If you just make minimum payments on all your debts, you’ll end up paying far more than you have to on interest and it will take you decades to be debt-free. Take an honest look at all your bills. How much do you owe on each account? What are the interest rates? Are there penalties for prepayment? Having this information in hand can equip you to put together a smart plan for getting out of the red.

Choose Which Debt to Pay Off First

You should focus on paying off one debt at a time. This will ultimately save you money on interest and keep you focused on your financial goals.

You can choose to pay off your smallest debt first. Pour as much money as you can into the debt each month while you make minimum payments on all your other debts. After your smallest debt is paid off, roll the money you were using on it into the next debt. This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you quickly see some of your monthly payments disappear.

Alternatively, you can pay off your most expensive debt first. By focusing on the debt with the highest APR, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars on interest.

As you slog your way through your debts one at a time, you might also put a little extra into the debts that aren’t your main focus. For example, if you use a credit card for a small purchase, you could promise yourself to pay off that small purchase immediately — and add a few extra dollars onto the bill. This will keep you accountable for your spending and make an impact on your overall debt.

Consider Consolidation

Student loans generally have low interest rates, so debt consolidation should only be an option for you if you have other, high-interest, unsecured debts. The consolidation will allow you to combine all of your monthly credit card payments into one. Your budget will be simpler, and you’ll save money on interest.

Choose a Career Path With Student Loan Forgiveness

If you’re still early in your college career, it might not be too late to choose a major that will lead to a career that offers student loan forgiveness. If you go into public service after you graduate — for example, if you work for the government or a nonprofit organization — you may eventually qualify to have your student loans forgiven.

Debt is a worrisome thing for most college students, but the sooner you put together a plan to pay it off, the less stress you’ll have later on. Choose a debt payment method that works with your situation and your budget.


When you’re living on ramen packets and you don’t know if you’ll be able to afford your next tank of gas, a payday loan can seem like a tempting way to get the cash you need right away. All you have to do is pay it back when you get your check, right? Stop right there. Payday loans are extremely dangerous.

Preying on Students

College students are often desperate for money, and payday loan companies prey on that vulnerability. An article in The Guardian states, “adverts for payday loans weed out the people they’re not interested in, until all they’re left with are the incredibly desperate or the young and unreasonably optimistic.” College students are a special target because of their unique circumstances. Of course you’re not dumb, but your circumstances may trick you into thinking that taking out a payday loan won’t have dire consequences. In truth, though, these loans are nothing but traps.

Shocking Interest Rates

According to PayDayLoanInfo.org, the average payday loan comes with an annual percentage rate (APR) of around 400 percent. Sometimes, the APR can be close to 800 percent. Your jaw is probably already on the floor, but to drive the point home, think about interest rates for credit cards, which usually have an APR between 10 and 30 percent. Credit cards seem like a bargain compared to payday loans!

Usually, you are expected to repay a payday loan with your next paycheck, as the name of the loan implies. However, you may be given the option of simply paying a finance charge and rolling over the loan into your next pay period. The more you do this, the more money you end up paying for nothing. This can turn into a debt spiral that will cost you hundreds or thousands of extra dollars over time.

Avoid Payday Loans

The best way to avoid getting trapped in a payday loan scam is to create a budget and stick to it. Anticipate the hard times, and set aside a rainy day fund for when you can’t work as much or when you have added expenses.

But what if you simply don’t have the means to set aside money ahead of time? You might think that if the choices come down to getting a payday loan or not eating, a payday loan is the lesser of two evils. However, you may have other alternatives.

Hit Craig’s List and sell some stuff you don’t need anymore. You’ll get cash, reduce clutter, and hook someone else up with something they do need.

Ask your employer about a pay advance. Many employers are flexible, and they want to please their loyal employees, so it can’t hurt to ask for a bit of an advance on your next check. Just don’t make a habit of doing this.

Another option is to take something valuable to a pawn shop and use it as collateral for a loan. It’s a quick way to get some cash, and you’ll be able to get your valuables back when you repay the loan.

Payday loans are scary — scarier than that horror flick that gave you nightmares when you were a kid — so avoid them by being smart about your budget and taking advantage of payday loan alternatives.


Whether school is in session or you’re on break, it’s difficult to find time to monitor your bank account. However, if you don’t balance your checkbook or check your balance online, you might incur overdraft fees by spending more money than you have in your account. Try these strategies to avoid financial penalties and other complications associated with overdrafts.

Set an Online Alert

Modern banks have adapted to technology just like businesses in many other industries. If you have access to online banking, you can probably set account alerts. You’ll give your bank a minimum balance, such as $50, and you’ll receive an email or text message if your balance dips below that threshold.

Account alerts can stop you from spending money you don’t have. As soon as you receive a notification, you can either put the kibosh on purchases or transfer money from another source into your bank account. You’ll avoid overdraft fees and perhaps develop more responsible spending habits.

Check Your Bank Account Once Per Day

If you don’t want to balance your checkbook manually, set up online access. Check your balance at least once per day. If you choose a specific time, such as first thing in the morning when you wake up, you’ll create a long-term habit. It will become second nature to check up on your balance, which will enable you to keep a closer eye on your finances.

Add a Backup Account

Most banks allow you to create a backup account for your checking account. You can use a savings account as long as you have money stashed in it, or you can link a credit card. If you accidentally spend more than the balance, the bank will automatically pull funds from the backup. Some banks charge for each transfer, though, so it should serve as your last resort.

Ask for a Waiver

If you accidentally slip up, don’t panic. Just about everyone experiences an overdraft fee at least once in his or her lifetime, so you don’t have to beat yourself up. If this is your first overdraft instance this year, call or visit your bank. Many institutions will waive single overdraft fees as a courtesy to keep customers happy.

You might also have an opportunity to negotiate for lower fees if you have several in a row. For instance, the bank might drop $10 or $20 off what you owe to make the hit more manageable.

Pay Fees Fast

Don’t let a negative balance chew away at your bank account. The financial institution will add new fees each week or so, which means you’ll continue to bleed money. Instead, pay off the fees right away, then use some of the tips above to manage your money more carefully. If all else fails, ask your bank to eliminate overdraft protection for your account. That way, if you try to spend more than you have, the bank will simply decline the charge.

Overdraft fees often plague college students who don’t always know how much they have in the bank. Recognizing the issue and taking steps to resolve it will help you create positive financial habits.


Getting a job in today’s market is tough. The United States unemployment rate is around 5.5 percent — so, on average, one in 20 of your friends is going to have a hard time finding work — and that doesn’t even mean the job they’re trying for will be a good one. It could be in a completely different field than they hoped, making as little as minimum wage.

If you are going to get the job you want, you need the right education, some type of experience (volunteer or paid), and impressive interview skills. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be sure to ace your next job interview:

Know What to Expect

Always remember that job interviews are not about showing that you are qualified for the job. Your dream employer has your resume and knows your experience. Instead, job interviews help potential employers determine whether you would be a good fit for the company, including both its goals and its culture.

Be Punctual

Showing up late is disrespectful to your would-be employer as well as other interviewees. Just don’t do it. Plan ahead and arrive early. If you are worried about finding adequate parking or public transportation, give yourself enough time to arrive early and relax with a coffee before your interview — just do not be late. Remember: in appointment time, early is on time, on time is late.

Look Your Best

If you are going to ace your interview, you have to look your best. Wearing casual or revealing clothing is never a good idea, but a suit may not be the appropriate either. Instead, choose an interview outfit that looks like you, expresses as much creativity as the position requires, and demonstrates that you tried to look nice. Polish your shoes, iron your shirt, and look like you came to work. When in doubt, dress up, not down.

How to Prepare

Never walk into an interview without being prepared. Research the company. Check the website, read up on the industry, the company’s competitors, and the buzz on social media. If possible, talk with people who work for the company and ask questions about the culture and challenges they are facing. Finally, prepare questions to ask in the interview that are specific to the company and position.

Plan Ahead

The key to acing your job interview is planning ahead. Bring extra copies of your resume as well as pen and paper for taking notes. Bring business cards if you have them, as well as a digital copy of your resume and portfolio that you can leave with the person who interviewed you. Be sure to also plan ahead for what happens after the interview. Make sure you have contact information for the person or people who interviewed you, as well as the correct spelling of their names, their positions, and the best way to reach them, so you can send a follow-up. And always thank them for their time in meeting you.

Bottom Line

The best way to ace your next job interview is through careful preparation, a personal touch, and lots of respect. Even if you’re not the right fit for the first position you interview for, if you make a good impression with the company, they may keep you in mind until they find the perfect job for you.


You probably think of your social media pages as your own little corner of the Web, but they also make up your personal brand. It’s not just your friends or family members taking notice of your posts either. Fifty-two percent of employers and 92 percent of recruiters say they check social media accounts before deciding whether to hire an applicant. Even more troubling, 48 percent of employers say what they found online made them pass on a candidate. What message do your social media pages send? And how can you use those pages to promote your career?

Get Active on LinkedIn

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram might be the most popular social media platforms for millennials, but when it comes to promoting your career, you’ll do it best on LinkedIn. Eighty-seven percent of recruiters say they use LinkedIn as part of their hiring processes — more than any other social network.

Think of your LinkedIn account like a digital resume, advertising your work experience and skills to potential employers. Just like a regular resume, it’ll make the best impression if it’s kept up to date. Like any other social media platform, you’ll get the most out of LinkedIn if you’re active. Join some industry groups and take an active role in their conversations.

Proofread Every Post

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter. According to The Hiring Site, 30 percent of employers say poor communication skills on social media are a real turnoff. Make sure your posts are free of typos, and use those common Internet acronyms sparingly, if at all. While poor communication reflects badly on all job candidates, it can be a deal-breaker for people entering fields where communication skills are prized, such as journalism and education.

When you’re proofreading your posts, also take note of the language you’re using. You might use foul language when you’re hanging out with your friends, but a prospective employer won’t be impressed.

Share the Right Content

The content you share says a lot about your interests and inspirations. Funny cat videos and the latest BuzzFeed list might be entertaining, but what do they really say about you and the type of employee you’d be? Ditto on political and religious opinions (you’re certain to offend someone so don’t take chances on it being a potential employer). Start following experts in your field and share posts from their feeds. Their influence will reflect positively on you.

Promote Any Work Experience

Sixty percent of employers are looking at your social media account for information that supports your qualifications for the job. While LinkedIn is an obvious place to showcase your talents, you can also promote your professional skills on other platforms. Share details of any work experience or volunteer work you’re doing. More than three-quarters of recruiters view these type of posts positively. Just make sure you are positive about the experience. If you badmouth the work or other employees. you’ll look unprofessional.

Your social media accounts can be much more than a way to connect with your peers. Use them wisely, and they can be a valuable way to promote your skills, build a compelling personal brand, and further your career.


Summer is the perfect time for relaxing on the beach or by the pool with a good book. Rather than reaching for a trashy romance novel or a schlocky thriller, why not select something that will broaden your mind and expand your perspective all while being enjoyable? These quality reads will keep your brain working during summer break.

The Women’s Room by Marilyn French: Feminist Tome Still Resonates

The Women’s Room by Marilyn French was penned in the 1970s and is set in the 1950s, but its themes still resonate today. Like French herself, the main character, Mira, is a suburban housewife who decides to expand her horizons and become a mature student at Harvard. As Mira discovers her identity and her place in the world, modern readers will marvel at the way its themes of slut shaming and societal expectations still resonate. The Women’s Room is bound to get you thinking about how far women have come and how they still fight for equality in the workplace and social sphere. Female students are likely to empathize with Mira’s struggles, but if you’re a man, you shouldn’t let the title put you off. There’s plenty here for you to enjoy, too.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace: Think Critically About Everything

Critical thinking is a key skill for college students of all disciplines. Few people were more adept at it than the late David Foster Wallace, who dissects everything from the literature of Dostoyevsky to the O.J. Simpson trial and even lobsters in this fascinating read. The varied subject matter he tackles here makes Consider the Lobster bags of fun. Hopefully by the end, David Foster Wallace’s critical-thinking talents will also rub off on you.

The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing: Political Activism Satire

Some say you haven’t really lived the life of a college student unless you’ve picketed or protested about a cause close to your heart. Alice, the main character in Doris Lessing’s novel, is an unemployed and naïve political-science and economics graduate from a middle-class family. She takes up residence with a group of like-minded revolutionaries determined to change the world, with devastating results. As funny as it is disturbing, The Good Terrorist will get you thinking about how personal causes can so easily become political and the way terrorism evolves. Reading it now in the wake of recent terror attacks on Paris and Brussels gives this 1985 novel extra weight.

The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko: Powerful Memoir About Environment

Debates about climate change and planetary destruction often focus on science so it’s refreshing to read a more spiritual perspective about these issues in Leslie Marmon Silko’s The Turquoise Ledge. The author draws on her Cherokee, Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, and European ancestry in this memoir about life in the desert, her bonds with local animals, and the environmental decay she’s seen. This intimate novel reads like a diary, encouraging readers to think about their place in the world and what they want that world to be.

For some engrossing reads that will expand your perspective this summer, look no further than these quality books.


Graduation typically instills in students equal measures of elation, excitement, and anxiety. As a student, while you’re thrilled to move on to the next phase in your life, you might feel unprepared for the onslaught of decisions you must make. Creating a checklist of tasks to accomplish after the pomp and circumstance are over can ground you and ensure that you’re making the best use of your time.

Stop By Your School’s Career Center

A university career center or career services office contains a variety of free resources to help you land a post-collegiate job. Andrew Strieber of CareerCast recommends spending some time there before you say goodbye to school. Talk with a career counselor, and pore over the research materials.

You can also tap your professors for advice — especially those who teach courses related to your chosen profession. Ask to meet with them over coffee or during their office hours so that you can pick their brains about how best to proceed. Alternatively, shoot your professor an email asking a series of brief questions.

Customize Your Resume

These days, generic resumes and cover letters won’t land you a job. Customize each one to the company and position in question. Address key skills that will relate to your job performance in your resume, for instance, or mention some facet of the business you particularly like in your cover letter.

Collect a Few References

While personal references sometimes suffice for entry-level jobs, you’re better off providing professional references to potential employers. If you held an on-campus job, for example, ask your boss to write a quick reference letter. Request permission from anyone whose contact information you plan to supply to potential employers.

Other sources of references include supervisors of internships, managers for summer jobs, and even coaches or faculty advisors for extracurricular activities. If you worked on a special project at school, the professor in charge can also provide a reference. You might not use them all, but snag them before you leave school behind.

Diversify Your Job Search

Maybe you didn’t enjoy that composition class during freshman year, but you likely learned a few useful research skills. Give them some exercise now as you search for your first professional job. Don’t limit yourself to one online job board or a single classifieds forum.

Instead, visit as many job boards as possible to familiarize yourself with recent openings. Set up a LinkedIn account or use other social media platforms to learn about positions that might not have hit the boards yet. The more resources you use, the sooner you’ll secure a new position.

Set Broad Expectations

Many recent grads get their hopes up for landing their dream job. While it could happen, your first position out of college probably won’t resemble the caliber of job you’ll get when you’ve accrued a few years of experience. Shoot for getting a decent job now, but don’t stop looking for something better.

After graduation, you can go anywhere and do anything you want. Creating a plan will give your job search some direction and help you focus until you find a position that you’ll enjoy.