You’re in college, which means you live on a tight budget . . . but you still want to surprise your friends and family members with cool holiday gifts. It’s not an impossible feat, but you’ll need to get creative with your gift ideas. Follow these tips to ensure a happy holiday season full of the joys of thoughtful giving.

Reference a Memory

Some of the most powerful gifts remind the recipient of a cherished memory. If you and your best friend had the time of your lives at Mardi Gras last year, for instance, you could gift a bundle of colorful beads and hand-decorated framed photograph of the two of you in the French Quarter. Think about small, inexpensive objects that will inspire a laugh, a tear, or an exclamation like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you remembered that!”

Play to the Recipient’s Passions

People love to receive gifts that honor their hobbies and passions — even if those gifts don’t come with a high price tag. Does your sister love fashion? Maybe you can’t afford haute couture but consider giving her a subscription to Vogue magazine. Does your father play golf? Pick up a box of his favorite golf balls.

Take the DIY Approach

You don’t have to look much further than Pinterest to know that people love do-it-yourself projects. Think about ways you can DIY a piece of art or a craft you saw in an expensive catalog. You could also combine this tip with the last one — make something that aligns with the recipient’s hobbies. Is your aunt a foodie? Create a bundle of printable recipe cards just for her.

Shop in Advance

Regardless of an item’s quality or size, you don’t want to overpay. To get the best deal on your gifts, shop before you ever leave the house. Prop your laptop on your dorm-room bed and do your best impression of a private investigator. Compare prices at three or four stores so you know what to expect. If it’s cheaper online, place your order without worrying about your wallet.

Snag a Coupon

Before you start your holiday shopping spree, look for coupons associated with all the stores you intend to visit. Even if it offers just five percent off, your bank account will benefit. If you’re shopping online, look for free-shipping deals. Alternatively, buy most of your gifts from the same outlet so you can take advantage of free-shipping offers for orders that total more than a certain price point.

Get in the Kitchen

Maybe your dorm room doesn’t have an oven and a stove, but if you’re heading home for the holidays, bring your apron. Make your gift-list recipients brownies, cookies, or another sweet treat. Put your frugal college-eating habits to work as you shop for ingredients. Put the edible goodies in disposable, holiday-themed containers to finish off the gifts.

You don’t have to sink yourself in debt to pay for holiday gifts for your friends and family. The people you love understand that you’re living on a college-student budget, so focus on the thought behind the gift instead of the gift itself. And add a handmade card just to take that gift to the next level.


From the American Revolution to Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring to #StopPoliceBrutality, protests have shaped American political discourse and motivated change across our collective national culture. College campuses are no exception, rather they are often some of the first (and most important) places where people gather to speak their minds. It is here where student protestors express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and inspire educators to address serious concerns. And now, with the ubiquity of social media, the entire world is watching in real time.

The Role of Student Activism in Campus Policy

Many of the most-successful student protestors have taken a stand regarding campus and curriculum policies and procedures. More than 1,000 high-school students in Jefferson County, Colorado, for instance, expressed their upset about AP History curriculum changes in 2014, according to Colorado Public Radio. Students felt that the new curriculum promoted revisionist history by painting America’s history in a positive light while glossing over troubling elements of systematic oppression of minorities. Another recent topic of protest on campus is the cost of higher education and the amount of debt with which students graduate.

Leading the March Toward Social Change

Campus issues aren’t the only focus of student protestors. Activists can take a lead role in the pursuit of larger social justice and change. Students can protest congressional decisions and executive orders just as easily as they can march against high on-campus textbook prices or tuition cost increases. In fact, students have often made national headlines for their attempts to inspire change in the political, financial, and social arenas. Writing for The Atlantic, Melinda D. Anderson traces the the roots of civil-rights protests through multiple generations. She reports that, in the 1960s, students from high-school to college organized protests to promote civil rights and to condemn segregation. Similarly, students have congregated on campuses in the last year to spread the message that Black Lives Matter. Certainly one of the most well-known (and tragic) demonstrations occurred on a college campus, namely the Kent State shootings where unarmed students protesting US involvement in Viet Nam and Cambodia were shot by the National Guard.

Preventing Psuedo-Activisim

Although student protestors can initiate positive change on campus and beyond, they can also devolve into slacktivism — a portmanteau of “slacker activism,” which implies that the protestor simply adds politically-motivated hashtags to the ends of Tweets or publishes a few short blog posts about an issue and feels as if he or she is actively engaged in a movement. Additionally, students must take care to avoid appropriating protesting language or initiatives for their own purposes. Replacing one word with another to create a new protesting “slogan” can have extensive negative consequences. For instance, those who co-opted the Black Lives Matter language and began promoting the phrase “All Lives Matter” experienced tremendous backlash. Appropriating an activist phrase for one’s own needs devalues the word’s or phrase’s original meaning.

Creating a Safe-and-Peaceful Protest

Students don’t have to encourage or engage in violence in order to inspire change. Peaceful protests allow students to continue expressing their opinions and beliefs without administrative or law-enforcement intervention. As long as every student abides by campus rules and remains accountable and in control during the event, student protestors can gain publicity and a willing ear. It is this sort of tactic that was so instrumental to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s getting his messages across to the mainstream.

Recent student protests surrounding the LGBTQ community, the proliferation of on-campus rapes, and other issues have attracted attention from administrators as well as the public. Continuing this tradition can inspire future generations of students to speak their minds. College is a time for exploring ideas and idealism. It is a great place to exchange opinions and meet others with whom one can work to make this world better.


Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to gobble up a great work of literature. Here are some of our favorite classics, all which come in budget editions and can be read in just a couple of hours. Grab a book to pass the time on your flight home or read to relax when you need some alone-time amidst so much food and family. And if none of these books appeals to you, try a different tome and remember that all reading is time well spent.

1 QuickReads for TG

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to get together with family, but many college students don’t have the time or money to trek home for the long weekend. If you're one of the many students not heading back home, you don't need to settle for a night of TV reruns and microwave mac and cheese. With these great ideas, your Thanksgiving at college can be one to appreciate and remember.

Go Home with a Friend Who Lives Close to Campus

You needn't miss out on a traditional family Thanksgiving just because you can't get to your home. Ask your roommate or another college friend what they're doing for the holidays and see if you can wrangle an invitation. Spending Thanksgiving with friend’s family is a great way to bond with your college pals and experience many of the things that make Thanksgiving such a wonderful holiday. Remember to be a great guest and offer to help with the meal and dishes. Bringing a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers or a dessert or side will also help win your hosts over.

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

It's not just college students spending the holidays away from the family. The low-stress vibe of a Friendsgiving makes it a popular choice among young adults everywhere. A college dorm will never have the kitchen setup your mom does, but it's possible to cook some holiday grub in your microwave. A small whole turkey stays moist in a microwaveable oven bag and cooking pumpkin pie in coffee mugs works surprisingly well. Don't be afraid of boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce. With easy options like these, you'll wonder why your mom spends hours toiling over a hot stove. Ask your guests to each bring a side dish and you'll have more than enough food to trigger that sweet post-feast food coma.

Volunteer in Your Community

When you're gorging on turkey and cheering on your favorite football team, it's easy to forget what Thanksgiving is really about: community and gratitude. Volunteering will help you remember the real purpose for the holiday by reminding you of how fortunate you are and how we can all use (and give) a helping hand. Volunteer Match lists a range of different volunteering opportunities for Thanksgiving. If you can't find anything that suits you, call a homeless shelter, animal rescue, or other nonprofit near your college campus and ask what you can do to help over the holidays.

Set Aside Some Personal Time

Consider your family-free Thanksgiving as an opportunity to have some you time. Unlike your peers, you don't have to spend hours on an overcrowded plane or in gridlocked traffic. There'll be no arguments with dodgy cousins or bratty younger siblings. And unlike most of the school year, there's no expectation that you'll be studying or working on assignments. So chill, breathe, and just enjoy it. Take time to read an actual non-homework novel, enjoy the solitude of a run through your deserted campus, and veg out with some of your favorite movies. Making the most of down time now will give you the healthy balance you need ahead of finals week.

Don't let being away from your family ruin your Thanksgiving. See it as a gift and an opportunity and remember that there are plenty of ways to make the holiday season special while you're at college.


In 2013, nearly 70 percent of graduating seniors left college with student-loan debt, debt that averaged nearly $30,000 per grad. Most young people can’t finish college without financial aid. If you are amongst those who need monetary assistance for your education, you first have to decide where to get it. Federal student loans offer an attractive option, but many students go with private college loans. Here’s what you need to know when comparing federal and private student loans.

What Is a Private College Loan?

The federal government offers regulated loans for students who need help paying for college and university tuition. Either the government or the school serves as the lender. A private college loan comes from a traditional financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. It’s not much different from a car loan or a mortgage except that you use the funds for tuition rather than a vehicle or a home. Federal student loans and private college loans share two things: both require you to pay back the loan and both allow you to defer payment until you graduate. Why, then, should you choose one over the other? Let’s touch on some deciding factors.

Interest Rates

Most students are attracted to federal student loans because of the low interest rates. Even though they have to pay back the money, they don’t have to pay much on top of the principle. Private college loans, however, sometimes charge much more in interest. Your interest rate, however, depends largely on the risk you represent to the lender. If you or your parents have excellent credit, for instance, you might qualify for a private loan rate that equals (or betters) that of a federal loan.

Information Disclosure

To receive federal student loans, you must complete the FAFSA form. This document requires lots of data about you and your parents, including your bank statements, income, tax records, and other personal information. A private college loan might not demand this level of disclosure if you have a solid credit history. This could save you time and hassle while keeping sensitive information more private.

Spending

Federal student-loan programs limit the potential uses for the money you receive. Most programs allow you to use the money to pay for on-campus housing but not an off-campus apartment, for instance. If you need to get more creative with your student loan money, a private loan might prove more practical as it allows more choice and flexibility.

Flexibility

A federal student loan will offer more flexibility in terms of repayment and deferment. In rare cases, the federal government discharges or forgives loans based on specific circumstances. Additionally, you can defer your payments for a period of time if you meet certain criteria, such as long-term unemployment, returning to school, or serving in the military. You shouldn’t count on catching any of these breaks (and remember that deferred does not mean erased) but you should be aware of them.

Neither a federal student loan nor a private college loan represents the ideal choice for every student. When deciding how to pay for college, submit applications to multiple lenders and evaluate the response of each based on your needs. Get as many viable funding options as possible and sit down with your family (and anyone else involved in your college finances) and compare the pros and cons of each offer head to head.


Most young people entering college have little idea of how to achieve their dream jobs or even what might be available to them in terms of courses, majors, and careers. Ask any college grad and he or she will have plenty of “I wish I’d known then what I know now” advice for you, not least of which is about what he or she could have pursued in terms of a degree. The bottom line is that you have more options than you think and just because something is unusual or out there doesn’t mean that you can’t major in it and find a related job. Here are some quirky majors to help you better understand what’s available and where and what to do with it.

1 Strangest Majors

Your parents might still picture you as their little one all dressed up as one of the then-fashionable Disney characters and toting a plastic jack-o’-lantern filled with sugary treats, but you’re in college now and you want to have age-appropriate Halloween fun. Here are some ways in which you can have fun, stay safe, enjoy treats, and avoid tricks.

Find Your Best Options

In the days leading up to Halloween, the campus organizations that host Halloween parties and events will post flyers and online notices to advertise their events. When something catches your eye, make a mental note to consider it for Halloween night. As the day gets closer, review all your options and choose one (or more!) that sound most appealing. You might want to spend Halloween with a group or organization you have joined on campus. If you’ve gone Greek, for instance, you’ll probably attend your house’s party (or a related house’s event).

Throw Your Own Party

If you want to design the festivities yourself, consider collaborating with your suite-mates and hosting your own bash. Just check with your RA and make sure to follow any rules. If you want to make fast friends and secure your status as the go-to guy or girl for parties, make your Halloween bash as unique as possible. Come up with a Halloween theme such as the zombie apocalypse or a murder-mystery game. Plan the details like food, beverages, and contests with your pals. Don’t overspend. Focus on the friends and fun rather than breaking the bank on decorations and props.

Design Your Own Costume

You can always hit the local big-box store or party shop to find a ready-made Halloween costume, but where’s the fun in that? Exercise your college-educated creativity and make your own costume. Put a twist on a traditional costume idea or come up with something that represents your personality or favorite things. If you’re feeling like you’ve been in a rut lately, consider stepping outside your comfort zone with a wacky or daring costume that shows your friends that you’re anything but predictable. And don’t be afraid to turn to current events for inspiration. Halloween 2015 is just begging for guys to put on a suit and rock the double comb-over in order to go as Donald Trump.

Stay Safe Out There

When you were little, your parents warned you about taking candy from strangers, they reminded you to stay in a group, and they urged you to come home before it got too dark. Now that you’re in college, don’t drop your guard. People can get a little crazy on Halloween so you’ll want to avoid events that look conducive to making bad decisions or are hosted by organizations or individuals with bad reputations. Stick with your friends all night and watch out for each other. Nothing ruins a fantastic Halloween night like an actual brush with danger.

Keep It Casual

If Halloween creeps up on you and you find that you don’t have any plans, you might want something low-key and easy. Consider watching horror movies in your dorm room with friends or invite your pals over to tell ghost stories or decorate Halloween cookies. You don’t have get in full-on dressed-up party mode to enjoy the spirit (ahem) of the holiday.

Remember that college is the perfect time to release your inner child on Halloween. You might not trick-or-treat around the neighborhood but college campuses offer excellent alternatives. Plus, no parents to make you pace your candy consumption.

 


The financial decisions you make in college can impact the rest of your life. You have at least some financial independence and you’ll be creating habits that last well beyond college. If you want to start your post-graduation life on the right foot, follow these tips to help you make sound financial decisions in college.

Keep Track of Your Cash

Sign up for a bank account that offers online access, gives free checking and a debit card, offers plenty of ATMs, and doesn’t charge a lot of fine-print fees. Check your balance daily to track changes and set up account alerts so you’ll know if your balance dips below a certain threshold or if the bank notices suspicious activity. Learn to balance your checkbook, too, and do it immediately after every transaction lest you forget to enter something and find yourself overdrawn later. It’s a more active way to track your activity than just checking numbers on a computer screen and it forces you to think about every payment you make.

Start Saving Now

When you apply for a checking account at a physical bank or one that is online, open a savings account at the same time. Every month, transfer a few dollars into that account and forget about it unless you encounter an emergency. Over time, it’ll become second nature to sock away cash in preparation for the proverbial rainy day. Look into savings accounts that require no/low monthly balance and accrue some interest.

Be Honest With Yourself

If you know you’ll run up the balance on a credit card as soon as you call the number on the back to activate it, say “no” to credit until you get older. Opening a credit card and using it wisely can help you build a credit history, but not if you can’t handle the temptation that comes with “buy now, pay later.” The same goes for other financial commitments. Sure, you want a new car, but can you really afford the payments? Force yourself to wait seven days from the moment you decide you want to make a big purchase. Think about the potential fallout before you sign on any dotted lines.

Stay In/Scale Down

You’d rather hit the town with your friends than lock yourself in your dorm room to study, but if your cash situation won’t support the cost, decline the invitation. Create traditions with your college friends that don’t require anyone to spend money. Organize a movie night in your dorm rather than going to the movie theater, host a potluck rather than going out to eat, and get creative with having fun on a budget. And trust us, that $5 mocha latte tastes much better when it’s a once-a-week treat rather than a daily norm.

Look For Discounts

No matter what you buy, look for ways to save money. Can you go online to find cheaper textbooks or download a coupon for your favorite clothing store? Does that museum you want to visit over winter break offer a student discount on admission? Each time you shop the clearance rack or swipe a coupon, you put money in your wallet and set up great financial habits. Wherever you go and whatever you buy, ask if there is a student discount. Often there is but it’s not well publicized.

Seek More Financial Aid

Each time a semester ends, you can apply for new financial-aid options that might reduce your financial commitment next term. If you can avoid student loans while you gain your education, you’ll graduate with less debt and better prospects. Visit your college’s student-services office to ask for help. And remember that the better your grades, the better your chances for scholarships.

Have fun during your college years, but don’t give your bank account an unnecessary workout in the process. Instead, take time to think through spending decisions and use available resources to save money whenever possible. When in doubt, err on the side of saving and caution and always ask “Do I really need this?” before buying.


While spring break gets most of the attention, you don’t have to spend fall break huddled up in your dorm room with your nose in a book. It’s called a study break for a reason — it’s an opportunity to clear your head, de-stress, and indulge with your friends. If you’re planning a fall-break trip, consider one of these epic destinations.

New York City

If you can’t wait to cut loose over fall break but you don’t want the complete absence of cerebral pursuits, New York City offers the perfect combination of entertainment and education. Spend your days visiting the city’s amazing museums or touring the impressive art galleries, then get dressed up at night for the theater or a few of Manhattan’s hottest clubs. Book an inexpensive hotel room and share it with a few friends. Eat great food, take long walks in Central Park, and take mad selfies in Times Square. If you get the chance, don’t forget to give Lady Liberty a wave while you take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

San Francisco

If you’re stuck in a city where winter comes early every year, break out and get a dose of mild weather and spectacular scenic vistas in San Francisco. Tour the Bay Area from a cable car and take a gander at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Eat something sweet at Ghirardelli Square then walk off the calories as you tour the winding hilly streets full of fascinating history, architecture, and people.

South Padre Island

Hitting South Padre for spring break can mean expensive airfare, costly hotel rooms, traffic-clogged roads, and crowded beaches. If you visit during fall break, however, you’ll still enjoy the crystal-clear water without the extra hassle. Take a kayak out on the water or sunbathe on the sand. Every night, local bars, clubs, and other entertainment venues come alive. You’ll meet more locals than travelers, which means a more authentic experience.

Las Vegas

Even if you aren’t old enough to slide a coin into a slot machine, you can find plenty to keep you entertained in Las Vegas. The shows alone make a trip to the Strip worthwhile, especially if you love music or magic. When you need a long walk to clear your mind, the minimalist desert landscape offers the ideal retreat.

Carlsbad

For students who want a more low-key fall-break destination, Carlsbad New Mexico delivers in more ways than one. Visit the caverns themselves to explore subterranean havens that allow you to forget about the world above. The national park offers plenty of outdoorsy adventures to keep you occupied, while Sitting Bull Falls is the perfect place to meditate and relax.

No matter how you imagine your perfect fall-break escape, one of these destinations will satisfy your needs. Call your pals, book the flight, and pack your bags — school will still be there when you get back, refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester.

 


If you can escape college without a War and Peace-length list of regrets, you’re luckier than most. Everybody makes mistakes in college, but you can avoid some of those errors in judgment if you take advice from people who remember their own university experiences. Here are some things we’re passing on as a result of our own — ahem — “missteps” while at university.

Not Knowing Isn’t a Bad Thing . . . But Only If You Seize the Opportunity to Learn Something

When your roommate casually mentions a term you don’t recognize or your professor makes a confusing point during a lecture, don’t just nod and smile as though you understand. Instead, ask questions or hit up a dictionary or reference website and capitalize on some new knowledge. It’s kind of why you’re in college.

Go. To. Class.

It’s really tempting to look at a syllabus, see that the professor allows three absences, and to take that as a go-ahead to miss three classes. Don’t do it just because you can. Skipping class not only means that you miss the lesson (and no, getting the notes from a friend isn’t the same as being there), it also creates and reinforces bad habits. It’s a slippery slope and pretty soon you’re missing more classes and finding yourself in danger of failing at midterm as a result of absences or being lost in the material for which you were not present.

Your Professors are More Than Just Talking Heads

A professor does more than educate and grade you in the classroom. He or she can recommend you for an internship, help you get into grad school or find a job, introduce you to influential people, and generally steer and support you. Introduce yourself to your teachers at the start of each term. Participate in discussions and visit professors when you need guidance (profs have office hours for a reason). These relationships can be the stuff of professional development and lifelong mentorships down the line.

Use Student Loans as a Last Resort

It takes time and effort to apply for scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. However, that work pays off when you graduate without a tremendous debt hanging over your head. Many college students need student loans to pay for school but they seek other financial help first. Even if you only cut your debt by a few thousand dollars, you’ll find your first few years in the working world are easier to manage when you aren’t paying off all of that interest.

Grades Matter, So Does the Larger Experience

Looking back with as few regrets as possible is all about balance and avoiding extremes. In college, of course grades matter, but so do friendships and life skills and experiences. You’ll want to devote plenty of time and energy to your studies, but don’t miss out on things like dating, day trips to a nearby city, joining an intramural team, and exploring beyond campus. On the flip side, don’t get so into these other experiences that you neglect your studies. Find your balance and you’ll hit your sweet spot for college and looking back.

Finally, although you’ll enjoy college more if you keep the above truths in mind, you’ll still make mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and devote yourself to enjoying the college experience. That way, you’ll look back on your college years as both informative and gratifying.