Whether you’re about to graduate college or you recently accepted your diploma, this is a very exciting time for you. This is a time to celebrate a great accomplishment and be proud of how far you’ve come, but it’s also a time of big decisions and changes. Here are four financial tips every recent college graduate should keep in mind as they begin the post-grad life.

1. Choose Your First Job Carefully

After graduation, one of the top things on your mind is likely to be your job. At this point, you may already have a great job lined up or you may be searching. Either way, make sure you’re being smart with your choice. The best jobs aren’t always the ones with the highest salaries. Make sure you choose a job that is on the right path to your long-term goals. You’ll also want to research the company carefully and make sure their ideals line up with yours. Job satisfaction isn’t just in the paycheck.

2. Live Frugally Until You Get Settled

Start a budgeting habit if you don’t already have one. It can be easy to get used to the somewhat cushy lifestyle of walking to class every day, living in a cheap dorm or college apartment, and benefiting from a meal plan. Once you’ve graduated, you’ll likely need a new place to live, a budget for food, and maybe a car.

Don’t buy a brand new car or lease an apartment that maxes out your budget. Look for a used car in good shape and an apartment that will meet your needs without stretching you too thin. Once you’ve settled into your career path, you’ll have a much better idea of what you can afford. Then you can look into that shiny new car.

3. Make Your Loan Payments on Time

Most college graduates are starting out their careers with student loan debt. This is a necessary evil for many, but it doesn’t have to hurt your credit. If you choose your loans wisely and keep up with your payments, you can actually build up an impressive credit score over time. Many loan types can be consolidated and payment plans can be changed after graduation. If you’re struggling to keep up with payments, look into your refinancing and payment options.

4. Keep Your Credit Under Control

Even if you manage your student loan payments well, you can still hurt your credit score in other ways. Maintaining a good credit score is one of the biggest favors you can do yourself in the long run. When you’re ready to buy a house or need financing for any major purchases, your credit score will greatly affect your options.

Opening a good line of credit and keeping up with paying your statement balance each month will do wonders for your score. However, not all credit cards are created equal. Store cards tend to have the highest interest rates and the smallest benefits. Try not to open a credit card for every store you shop at, but maintain a good general credit card that gives you valuable perks like cash back and travel miles.

Congratulations on your accomplishment and good luck starting your career! Don’t let this lifestyle change throw you off track financially — be prepared and you’ll welcome success.

If you’re like most graduates, your cap and gown came with a ton of gift money from family and friends. Is all that cash burning a hole in your wallet? Before you dump your new nest egg on the latest smartphone, think about your future. If your new degree didn’t come with financial planning classes, you can still start your economic future off right. Use that money wisely with these four smart tips.

Start an Emergency Fund

Students who get a nice chunk of change after graduation can put that cash to good use. Financial experts, including Dave Ramsey, suggest starting out your first phase of adulthood with an emergency fund.

Deposit your graduation money into a savings account. Your life is about to change, and unexpected bills happen to everyone. Having a cushion in the bank is a smart strategy. Be prepared with at least $1,000. Then work to stash away up to three months’ worth of expenses.

Tackle Those Student Loans

Paying off Sallie Mae should be a top priority once you have your diploma in hand. You don’t want that debt hanging around for the rest of your life. For graduates of Wisconsin universities, for example, the average bachelor’s degree takes 19.7 years to pay off. By then, you may have kids of your own heading off to college.

If you have a job lined up, don’t wait for your grace period — typically about six months — before you start paying on your loan. Any lump sum payments you make right away will reduce the interest you’ll have to pay later.

Plan for Your Retirement

You’re never too young to start banking on your future. Retirement probably feels far away, but the magic of compound interest makes saving now one of the best ways to use your graduation money.

If your new degree comes with a job and a 401(k), start putting money in it. You can also open a Roth IRA and use that graduation dough as your first deposit. Use this handy calculator to find out how much you can earn in interest payments. You can turn $500 a year into $132,560 for retirement by setting yourself up in your 20s.

Invest

Take control of your money and all your tomorrows by investing. It might sound a bit scary — like something your parents and their friends talk about — but you too can take advantage of those returns. Use your graduation money and jump right in. Start with a mutual fund and a broker. A professional investor will help you spread your wealth over different stocks. This strategy will increase your chances of making more money.

You do have to pay a fee to a broker, but it’s worth it to have the expert advice. You worked hard in school, and the big bucks you make investing are your reward. Make them work hard for you now.

After the commencement ceremony is over and the whole family has given out hugs, it’s time to face the tough choices. Be smart about your money, and you’ll build yourself a comfortable future.

The fall and spring semesters are packed with classes, leaving summer as the ultimate season for rest and relaxation. Given the many reasons for taking a much-needed break, why even consider taking a summer class? Enrolling in one or two summer classes is more beneficial than you may think.

1. Get Ahead on Your Academic Plan

Summer classes can help you get general education courses out of the way so you can complete your degree on schedule — or even earlier. Since general ed courses are usually prerequisites for classes related to your major, finishing them early frees you up to focus on your major. You might even have time to take extra electives.

2. Make Time for More Difficult Classes

You already know how hard it is to carve out enough study time for a single class when you’re taking a full course load. Instead of overwhelming yourself, save those difficult classes for summer. For instance, if you’re an English major who has difficulty with math, wait until summer term to devote all your time and energy to that dreaded calculus class. Summers allow you to tackle your most difficult subjects without distraction

3. Save Money

It’s no secret that delaying your graduation results in more student debt. The best way to keep your student loans to a minimum is to graduate on time or even early. Enrolling in summer classes accelerates your graduation plans and keeps overall costs down.

4. Keep Your Brain Sharp

It’s easy to get out of the habit of studying and writing research papers when you take a couple of months off. If you’re the type of student who works best with a steady routine, taking summer classes can help you maintain your stamina and keep your brain sharp. Summer classes are also ideal for subjects requiring multiple courses.

For example, meeting your foreign language requirement is easier if you can take Spanish 101 and Spanish 102 in subsequent terms. If classes are full during the fall and spring semesters, taking the summer off could mean losing everything you learned in the first course.
Enrolling in summer classes keeps your brain sharp in other ways, as well. You’ll maintain good study habits from one academic year to the next without feeling like you’re starting over every fall.

5. Enjoy Online Options

More colleges and universities have started offering online classes to help students meet their general education requirements. Summers give you the perfect opportunity to enroll in an online course while working a seasonal job to save money for tuition and personal expenses. Even if you want to spend time at home with your family over the summer, online classes allow you to enjoy some downtime without experiencing a break in reaching your education goals. You can even go on vacation while still getting another required course out of the way.

With so many reasons to take a summer class, why not give it a chance? Summer terms allow you to finish your education requirements early, take smaller course loads throughout the academic year, and better balance your job and personal life.

Want to give your grades a boost? Join a study group. When you work with some of your classmates, you’ll get more out of your courses and help each other improve your academic performance. Learn about the benefits of study groups and get tips for getting the most out of the experience.

Make Your Notes More Thorough

Even if you’re diligent about going to class, it can be a challenge to jot down all the notes you need for upcoming assignments or tests. Your study group can share notes to ensure that no one misses any important details shared by your professor.

In addition, the members of the group can cover for each other if you have to miss a class for any reason. For example, your group could provide you with notes if you can’t make it to class when you’re sick. If someone has to skip class due to a family emergency, you can share your notes so they don’t have to stress about what they missed.

Cover More Material

Studying for an exam is much easier when you tackle it as a group. You can discuss class material and quiz each other as the exam date approaches. For bigger tests like midterms, you might even assign each group member a topic to research and study. Then, you’ll take turns teaching the other members of the group in preparation for the exam. You’ll only have to study a limited portion of the class material, but thanks to the help of your group, you’ll cover all the necessary topics that will be on the test.

Share Your Skills

Each member of your group may have a unique skill set that they bring to the group. Maybe one of you is great at putting together study guides. Another member makes excellent flashcards, while someone else is able to explain complex topics in a way you can all understand. It’s helpful to have a member who’s great at setting up group meeting times, handling library study room reservations, and reminding everyone when and where to show up. What skills can you bring to a study group?

Get Motivated

Study groups can be an excellent solution for procrastination. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to study, joining a group can help to boost your academic performance. You’ll have a specific time and place to meet, which makes you much less likely to slack off. This structured setting is also helpful for students who find it difficult to focus on studying when they’re on their own. When you’re in a small group, you’ll be engaged throughout the meeting rather than becoming easily distracted by other things.

Studying doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. In fact, study groups can be immensely helpful for many students. If you join a study group for a particular class and find that it boosts your grade, you may want to consider starting your own group or joining existing ones for other classes in your schedule. You may even improve your study skills by learning from other members of your group.

Whether you’re just starting to apply to college or you’ve got a few years under your belt, you’ll want to make sure that you thoroughly understand your student loans. Many young students don’t put much thought into their loans until after they graduate, and the terms of their repayment surprise them. Here are four important things to know about your student loans.

Understand the Rates and Terms and Type of Loan

There are many different types of loans, so make sure you understand exactly what kind you’re agreeing to when you sign. Before choosing a loan, be sure to read all of the fine print, or you could find yourself with some very unpleasant surprises down the road.

Federal loans come with fixed interest rates. Private loans determine interest rates based on credit and income and some are fixed and others are variable, meaning the rate can change. Terms vary depending on the loan type, as well. Some loans allow for slower repayment or refinancing, while others don’t.

Federal loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. The government pays interest on subsidized loans while the student is still in school, but students are fully responsible for all interest accrued on unsubsidized loans. First, you’ll need to start with a FAFSA application to see what you qualify for. Once you’ve figured out what financial aid you can get from the government or your school, you’ll likely need to look into a private loan to make up the difference.

Repayment Options

Be sure to know what your repayment options are for all of your student loans. Some loans offer income-based repayment plans. You can also defer your loans for a period of time if you’re having trouble making payments. Keep in mind that the longer you take to pay off your loans, the more interest you’ll pay.

Certain loans offer an auto-debit option. This is a great idea if you can afford your monthly payments because it’ll make sure you aren’t late or forget to pay. You might even get an interest-rate reduction for choosing this option.

Relief Options

Federal loans and private loans both offer loan relief options. You’ll need to contact the specific provider to find out what your options are. Some banks will modify your loan or lower your interest rate if you’re struggling to keep up with payments. You might even be able to get your repayment put on hold for some time until you’re back on your feet. Certain career choices offer federal loan relief, so be aware of these options, as well. However, it’s very important that you are aware that unlike other types of debt, you cannot get rid of your student loan debt through bankruptcy court so this debt will be with you for life or until you pay it off.

Avoid Debt-Relief Scams

Be careful not to fall for a student loan debt relief scam. Debt repayment should be handled between you and your lender directly. Basically, if a loan relief company offers you help with repayment but asks for a fee upfront, run away. You’ll likely begin fielding spam phone calls from these fake companies the moment you graduate, so be aware.

Don’t get caught off guard. Student loans are not free money, and you will need to pay them back. Get a handle on your loans and all of the various options available to you before you start paying them back. You’ll save yourself stress and money in the long run.

If you’re trying to land an internship this year, you’ve already heard the standard advice: Use your network, research the company, dress appropriately for the interview, and so on. But what else can you do to stand out from the competition? Your best bet is to use a few old tricks along with some new ones that previous generations didn’t have. Keep these three tips in mind while you search for your dream internship.

Think Outside Your Major

You should definitely apply for the positions that best suit your long-term goals, and that might mean staying within your major. However, it’s important to consider internships outside your major. Part of the college experience is discovering who you are. Is there an opportunity that appeals to you but doesn’t quite fit your area of study? Apply for it anyway. Many of your skills are transferable, and you’ll enjoy your internship more if you’re genuinely interested in the company.

It’s also a good idea to look outside your major if you’re not having luck with your search. Going with a company that’s not your first choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You could learn skills you wouldn’t have learned elsewhere, and you might actually like the position. Sometimes the best opportunities are found in unexpected places.

Edit Your Social Media

When you use social media wisely, it can improve your chances of finding an internship or a job. There’s a good chance that recruiters will check your Facebook page and other social media, so make sure your online presence looks professional. Remove any photos or posts with profanity, nudity, alcohol, or drugs.

If you want to connect with companies through LinkedIn, you should keep your account up-to-date — a blank or an incomplete profile is a turnoff. Using a selfie for your profile photo is another no-no. If you don’t have a professional-looking photo of yourself, get help from a friend who’s good with a camera.

Know What You Want

This is an age-old tip that still works. Recruiters don’t want a half-interested student who just wants to fulfill his or her internship requirement. They want someone who cares about the company and the work it does. Apply to companies that genuinely interest you. Tailor each application for each company. A generic cover letter or a resume shows lack of interest and usually ends up in the rejection pile.

Let your passion show. If you have a blog dedicated to the subject — maybe you have a fashion blog, and you’re applying for a PR position at a fashion company — mention it in your application. Talk about your long-term goals during the job interview. Showing that you’re driven can help you stand out above other applicants.

By following these three tips, you’ll improve your chances of scoring your dream internship. Just keep in mind that some internships are highly sought after, and rejection is inevitable. Don’t give up. Contact the organization for feedback to find out what you can do in the future to improve your resume or interview. With perseverance, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

Spring break is the perfect time for letting your hair down and leaving the stresses of college life behind you. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. The following tips will help you have fun and stay safe during spring break.


1. Look Out for Your Buddies

Spring break is always more fun with friends. Before you let your hair down, pledge to look out for your buddies.

Always travel in groups of two or more. Arrive together and leave together. While a fling might sound fun, going home with strangers is risky. You don’t need to be joined at the hip, but you should know where your friends are at all times. Pay attention to the hotties they talk to and how much they’re drinking. If you think they’re being unsafe, step in to protect them. You might even take turns avoiding the booze so someone always has a clear head.

2. Practice Situational Awareness

Stay alert and aware of your surroundings and situations. That doesn’t mean you can’t relax and have fun, but you should recognize if anything feels off or amiss. Your gut instinct is a valuable gauge of how safe you really are. Listen to any uneasy feelings and act on them before you get into trouble.

Party in well-lit, busy places rather than darker ones with fewer people. When you’re using cabs and ride-sharing services, use the GPS to make sure your driver takes the route you’d expect. Double-check the license plate and driver photo match up when you’re using ride-sharing providers. This extra vigilance can help you avoid a sticky situation.

3. Watch Your Drinks

Studies suggest more than 2.2 million of the 6.31 million full-time college and university students enrolled in the United States will have their drinks spiked. Drink spiking can affect men too. Simply watching your drinks can dramatically reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Stay alert from the moment your drink is made. Choose sealed cans or bottles at parties rather than drinks from a punch bowl. At bars, get the drink yourself and watch the bartender make it. Keep an eye on your drink until it’s finished. Leaving it to go to the bathroom or even turning your back on it while you chat could give someone the opportunity they need.

4. Keep Valuables Safe

Few things spoil a spring break like losing valuable items. Some simple tricks can keep them safe though. Don’t pack very valuable items like high-end jewelry or bags. They can make you a target for thieves, so why take the risk? Store any essential valuables in your hotel safe before going out. Keep credit cards in an RFID wallet so crims can’t scan them and steal the details. Bra pouches and money belts worn underneath clothes are ideal for storing cash, identification, and hotel keys securely.

Spring break can be dangerous if you don’t exercise caution. That doesn’t mean giving up on fun though. With these tips in mind, you’ll have a blast and stay safe on your spring break.

The life of a college student moves at a frantic pace. Between attending lectures, studying hard, and working a part-time job so you’re not living on ramen, there never seems to be enough time for your passions. However, you shouldn’t give up on the activities that make your heart full. These smart strategies will help you find time for your passions without letting your responsibilities slide.

Analyze How You Use Your Time

Think critically about the ways you spend your time. What are you doing because you need to and what are you doing simply because you feel you should? Are you wasting any time? Some things are nonnegotiable, like attending class and studying. However, you probably do many things because you feel obligated or aren’t really thinking about them.

Whether it’s attending keggers to keep friends company or mindlessly thumbing through social media, there may be activities you can reduce or eliminate altogether. Don’t be afraid to say no. Making time for the things that really matter to you will make you much happier than people pleasing.

Prioritize Your Passion

Scheduling makes sure you never miss a lecture, a shift at work, or a group study session with friends. One of the key reasons you’re not spending time pursuing your passions is because they haven’t made your schedule. Allocate time to indulge in the things that really interest you, and take that appointment as seriously as you would any other. You wouldn’t bail on your professor or boss, so don’t bail on yourself.

Perhaps you want to take a yoga class or start surfing. Stop procrastinating and do it now! Join a local group and make sure that you’re free the times they meet. Perhaps your passion is something more solitary like reading, drawing, or hiking. While these passions don’t have organized groups, you can schedule time for them, too. Take the time you make for your passions seriously. Lock the door, switch off your phone, and focus on what makes you happy. If you share a dorm, indulge your passion in a park or somewhere else you won’t be disturbed.

Choose a Job That Reflects Your Passion

Many college students wait tables or tend bar to make ends meet. While these jobs may be the most plentiful, they’re not your only options. Consider whether you can use your passion to make money instead.

If you love acting, audition for parts in commercials or TV shows. If you love dancing or playing an instrument, see whether you could make some extra money teaching children. If you love cooking or creating arts and crafts, try selling your products at local markets. The job you take doesn’t need to be your career. It can simply be a fun way to make money right now.

Finding time for your passions helps you keep stress at bay and avoid burnout while you’re studying. Making that time can be tricky, but with these smart strategies, you can juggle the things you love and your responsibilities during your college years.

Landing the perfect summer internship can be done with the right preparation and work. Don’t wait until the end of the semester when you’re wrapped up in finals to start the process of looking and applying for internships — make sure to get started early.

Use Strategic Networking

There are tons of online resources out there for potential interns, but you can broaden your networking horizons and do things the old-fashioned way. Think about who you know and what their connections might be. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family about their knowledge of potential internship opportunities. You can do this by word-of-mouth or by using social media connections to your advantage.

The available online internship resources include several websites dedicated to matching high school and college students with their perfect summer jobs. Check out sites like YouTern or Internships.com where you can browse opportunities in various geographical areas and areas of interest.

Make a Plan

Don’t start the process of finding a summer internship without some kind of game plan. You want to make sure you know what you want before you start looking or things could get overwhelming very quickly. Make a list of companies and fields of research you’re interested in and the materials you’ll need to have ready to apply and interview.

See What’s Out There

You may have a few companies in mind that you’d like to work for, but you’ll want to make sure to do good research so that you know what they’re looking for in their interns. First of all, you might find your ideal company, but the specific types of internships they’re offering might not fit what you want at all. Second, if you do find an internship that interests you, you’ll do much better during the interview process if you know what they want.

College students have plenty of resources when it comes to finding the right internships. Start out by heading to your campus career center. Most colleges and universities have these centers where local businesses can put out the call for skilled interns. Many career centers will also offer students a time to sit down with an advisor and work on building a resume and figuring out these beginning stages of their career paths.

Prepare to Apply and Interview

As you’re preparing to apply and interview for internships, you’ll want to make sure you have a well-formed resume and a basic cover letter template that can be adjusted for different companies. Your resume can also be changed to highlight your particular skills suited for different opportunities, so make sure you’re paying attention to the details of each option.

Make a list of everything you’ll need to apply for a job and then to interview. You’ll want to include important items like a resume, cover letter, references, portfolio (especially if applying for a creative position), and a power outfit that will make you look more professional at the interview. Coming to an interview prepared and looking professional is an easy way to set yourself apart from the competition.

The right summer internship can not only give you a great summer break, but it can also start your future off on the right track. Follow these tips to land a great opportunity.

Fall is the most popular time of year to start college, and for good reason. Students have more courses to choose from at the beginning of the year. They can also apply for assistantships and internships sooner than spring applicants. Not everyone, however, is able to start school in September. For some students, it makes more sense to apply for the spring semester. Which term is best for you? Will you miss out on anything if you start college a semester late? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each option.

Course Availability

More students start college in the fall, and that means more courses are available. Some of these courses are prerequisites to those that begin in the spring. Others start in the fall and run straight through the next term. Fall applicants don’t need to deal with this issue, but spring applicants do.

Depending on the school and the program, certain courses may not offer open enrollment for the second semester. Make sure to do your research before sending out applications. Reach out to the schools and find out what your options are. Keep in mind that there are also ways to get course credits ahead of time.

Flexibility

The main advantage of spring admission is its flexibility. If you can’t start college right away but don’t want to wait a year, spring makes for a good compromise. Spring applicants can spend the fall working, traveling, recovering from health issues, or doing whatever else they need to do. Plus, international students may want more time to practice their English-speaking skills before moving to the U.S.

Assistantships

Fall applicants have the advantage when it comes to assistantships. To qualify for a teaching assistant (TA) position for a class, applicants must have completed the course with a high grade. First year students can usually apply for TA positions during the second semester. Because spring applicants haven’t completed any courses yet, they’ll have to wait for the next hiring blitz.

A Second Chance

Colleges get so many applications that it’s impossible to start everyone right away. For this reason, students who apply for the fall semester are sometimes accepted for the spring semester instead. This situation is hardly ideal. However, if it happens with you, and the school you’ve applied for is your top choice, you may prefer to wait the extra four months. Check what the college offers for spring admits, such as a spring orientation program. You can still have a great first year even if you’re starting late.

Off-Campus Internships

If your heart is set on getting an internship, you’re better off applying for the fall semester. Students in the U.S. must complete at least nine months of college before applying for off-campus internships. This means that spring applicants can’t apply for a summer internship until their second year of college. However, that doesn’t mean your first summer has to be futile. You can still make your summer break productive, and that internship can wait until next year.

The best time for you to start college depends on your personal circumstances. Fall offers the most advantages, but spring is a great choice for those who need a little more time to adjust to college life.