As winter break sets in, you’re probably planning the downtime. Will you organize your closet? Veg out in front of the television at your parents’ house? If you want to start next semester on the right foot, consider focusing on finances. A budget will help you keep your spending in line for the spring term.

Take Stock of Your Spending

Kristen Kuchar of The Simple Dollar recommends reviewing your finances from last semester. Did you rack up credit-card debt? Were you careless with impulse purchases? Find out how much money you have in the bank and where you’ll need to spend money before next semester starts.

Make a list of unhealthy financial habits you’ve developed, such as springing for restaurant meals instead of using your dining card on the pre-paid meal plan. Make a list of changes you want to make so you have more cash in your pocket before next summer.

Analyze Finance Apps

If you’re not fond of spreadsheets and ledgers, there’s an app for that. Look for either free or paid budget apps that allow you to track your income and expenses electronically. If you see where your money goes, you can better control your spending, especially if you’re prone to whipping out plastic every time something catches your eye.

Use the app to set budgeting goals and track your progress. Some apps allow you to sync the software with all of your devices or back up your information to the cloud. Look for an app that aligns with your financial goals and habits so you’re more likely to use it.

Build a Viable Budget

Now that you have the tools you need, get to work on your budget. Allocate a certain dollar amount to each of your expenses, from necessities like utilities and car insurance to niceties like entertainment and fashion accessories. Use the review you conducted of last semester’s finances to find places to shave spending.

The best budgets include at least a small cushion for savings. Even if you only transfer $5 per week into your savings account, you’ll finish the year with $260 that you don’t have now. Use that money only for emergencies so you always have a fallback for financial hardships.

Don’t Forget About the Future

A budget isn’t a static tool. It changes constantly based on your needs and circumstances. A short-term budget that covers just the spring semester leaves you room for adjustments down the road. Maybe you’ll get a seasonal job that improves your finances this summer or perhaps you’ll encounter an unexpected expense. Budgeting now will help you adjust as necessary.

As time passes, revisit your budget and make changes as needed — as long as those changes don’t coincide with your sudden desire to splurge or be wasteful. The more you work with your budget, the better you’ll understand your own habits and how to make small changes that can save you a lot.

While focusing on your finances might not seem like an exciting way to spend your winter break, it sets you up for a great spring semester. You’ll return to school with cash in your pocket and a plan for success.

Nothing collegey this week, just our very best wishes to you and yours for a joyous holiday season. If you’re traveling, be safe. If you’re hosting, don’t forget to enjoy your own party. If you find yourself with a little extra time, take a moment to be mindful of your good fortune and consider volunteering for a few hours with others who may be struggling. And no matter what you do and how you celebrate and with whom, know that we appreciate you and we thank you for a wonderful 2015.


It’s that time of the year: finals, holidays, travel, family, and a whole slew of stuff that can stress even the most-chill of souls. Sure it’s time to push hard and wrap up this year feeling solid about school and studies and campus activities but there is a very real danger of pushing too hard and burning out. Burnout can leave you unprepared for finals and unable to enjoy your time at school or to fully relax on break. It can also take a serious toll on your emotional well-being and your physical health and immune system. Many students experience burnout as they cram for exams or prepare elaborate projects. If you’re at risk of burning out, put these seven strategies into practice.

1) Take Care of Your Health

If you don’t take care of yourself, your burnout symptoms will become even more pronounced. Writing for Seattle PI, Ralph Heibutzki emphasizes the importance of getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet, and participating in physical activity. When you combine this magic three of self-care, you’ll find yourself better prepared to face psychological and emotional challenges as well as physical hurdles. You’ll also generally feel better all around.

2) Refine Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

If you set goals that you can’t realistically achieve, you may experience burnout because of scrambling for the unattainable and your subsequent disappointment and perceived failure. To avoid this problem, set practical goals that reflect your skills, abilities, and available time. Revisit your goals on a regular basis to determine whether you need to change them. For instance, if you experience burnout signs right before a test, you might need to start studying sooner so you have more time to devote to it.

3) Avoid Other Stressors

Sometimes academic burnout becomes exacerbated by other stressors in life. To avoid burnout, make sound financial decisions, surround yourself with positive people who help you bring out your best, avoid conflict with peers and teachers, and don’t poison your system with excessive alcohol (a known depressant). You’ll free up more time and energy to focus on academic pursuits and nail this semester.

4) Reduce Distractions

Streaming TV and movies, being active on social media, and taking a million online tests and quizzes can be distracting. Sure, they all have a time and a place but now is not that time as before you know it, you’ve just binge-watched all of the Fast and Furious movies and been told by BuzzFeed that the vegetable you most resemble is an eggplant. None of this is going to help you on that sociology exam tomorrow. Instead of falling prey to media distractions, focus on activities that help you feel more calm and in control. You’ll have more time to study and you’ll waste less time on activities that drain your brain.

5) Better Manage Your Time

If you eliminate distractions from your life, you’ll find it easier to manage your time wisely. It’s also important to set up a schedule for studying, working, relaxing, and sleeping. Fit it all into your daily routine so you don’t feel like you’re losing control of your priorities. Once you find your time-management groove, you’ll establish a routine that will see you through the times when burnout is a real threat.

6) Find a Support System

Whether you you FaceTime with your mom for three minutes every morning or you organize a weekly lunch with your best friends at school, you need a support system. If you start feeling burned out, it helps to turn to a compassionate ear. The right friends, family members, or even professors can provide valuable advice and guidance so you don’t feel as though you’re facing these challenges alone. You don’t have to go all TMI but do try to open up to someone you trust and who has your best interest in mind.

7) Seek Professional Guidance

There is nothing wrong with seeing a counselor or therapist to help you deal with burnout. A professional knows the tools and resources that can help you minimize stress in your life and achieve your goals at the same time. Most college campuses have counselors on staff to meet with students. Alternatively, you could see someone privately off campus. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, doing so is a sign of strength.

College and burnout often go hand in hand. Being aware of the signs and triggers allows you to anticipate problems and recognize the symptoms before things get out of control and you find yourself panicked or totally unprepared. If you are prone to burnout, don’t suffer in silence. Instead, find proactive ways to help yourself cope then seek support and guidance from others who can provide helpful (positive but honest) feedback.

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.