College is supposed to prepare you for the “real” world, so challenges are expected. Unfortunately, one of the biggest trials facing many college students is finding money to pay for school. Federal and private loans help them make ends meet.

Unless your college fund is flush, you may need help paying for school. Fortunately, there are several types of student aid available, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Most college students draw from one or more of these resources when covering college costs. Which one is best for you?

Paying For Your Education

College spending extends beyond the price of tuition alone. The cost of housing, books, meals, and other necessities pushes up the price of earning a degree. And regular expenses don’t go away during school either.  If you are like most college students, you’ll need outside help to keep up with these extraordinary costs.

Financial aid comes in three forms. Scholarships are earmarked for high achievers who excel in athletics, academics, and civic capacities. If you are a star athlete or an exceptional student, you may be able to land a scholarship. Students who demonstrate need to pay for school are offered grantsl. If your financial outlook prevents you from paying for college, a public or private agency may extend a grant, enabling you to attend. Grants and scholarships do not require repayment.

Student offer a popular third financial aid option, issued by the U.S. government and private banks.

Public and Private Loans

Student loans are offered by private lenders and through U.S. Department of Education programs. These must be repaid after you leave school. Government-backed options have the best interest rates and repayment terms for students, so the Federal Direct Loan Program is the top source for low-interest college loans.

Before you enroll in school, it is important to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA asks questions about your family finances and the cost of attending the college you’ve chosen. Your answers help financial aid officials determine which types of student aid are best for you. If your FAFSA shows financial need, you may be eligible for federal grants.

The last option for students are Federal loans. These loans have the lowest possible interest rates and flexible repayment terms. Both graduate and undergraduate students are eligible for unsubsidized loans. Interest rates may not be as low as subsidized alternatives, but unsubsidized federal loans are still more affordable than similar private loans.

In addition to low interest rates, subsidized student loans offer flexible repayment terms. You have the option to defer payment under certain conditions. During deferment, the borrowed amount does not accrue interest, helping graduates get on their feet before interest payments are due.

When scholarships and grants aren’t enough to cover the cost of college, students turn to loans. Your best bet is a Federal Direct Loan, but private options are also available.

 

College offers a world of opportunities, but trying to keep up with your grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and maintain a healthy social life is overwhelming. You want to make sure you don’t overschedule yourself; doing so can lead to burnout, fatigue, and more serious health issues. Here are some tips on how to prevent overscheduling yourself while in college.

 

Set Priorities

Setting priorities — for both academic and non-academic commitments — will help you tremendously. You’ll want to have an academic plan that outlines what courses you need to take. Before each semester, make sure to review your academic plan so that you schedule your classes appropriately. This is especially important if you choose to work part time or participate in extracurricular activities.

Next, you’ll want to review your non-academic commitments or other areas of your life that you value such as family, personal finances, and free time. Once you’ve considered your non-academic responsibilities, set priorities for them and compare them with your academic responsibilities. Now, set realistic priorities that allow you to focus on the most important aspects of your life. Make sure you’ve left yourself some downtime. Remember that if you have to squeeze something into your schedule, you need to either remove that task or rearrange your priorities.

Keep a Calendar

Try using a physical calendar like a planner to maintain your schedule. Using a physical calendar might sound pre-historic to most millennials, but think about using something visual that outlines your life laid out in front of you. You can see what you have to do on Monday and Friday all in one view. With a physical calendar, you can also write notes or reminders in the margins, which you can’t do with calendar applications on smartphones and other electronic devices.

Master Multitasking

If you thought you were a master at multitasking while in high school, then college will test those skills. In fact, multitasking will help you survive while in college.  However, multitasking requires practice, and certain activities are easier to balance than others. For example, if you ride the bus or train around campus, you can open up your notebook and study your notes during your commute. Texting during class, on the other hand, isn’t such a great idea because it interferes with your learning.

Schedule Some Downtime

When setting priorities and creating your calendar, be sure you schedule some downtime. Set aside a block of time on your calendar that is just for you, and don’t alter it under any circumstances. You’ll eventually become an expert at telling people no when they ask you to do something else. You can spend this time alone or enjoy a night on the town with friends. 

Every college student has felt stressed out for many reasons, but you can avoid stress from overscheduling. College is a busy time, but setting priorities and filling your calendar wisely is going to reduce stress levels. So, leave yourself time for mental breaks; your physical and mental health will thank you.

Attending college is a personal and financial investment into your future. College is the time to develop personal and professional skills that eventually mold your marketable or “transferable” skills. These skills will help you further down the road when you finish school and enter the workplace. By identifying and strengthening your abilities, you can get a jump-start in the job market.

What Are Transferable Skills?   

Transferable skills are those qualities, talents and personal attributes that most employers want to see. You’ll develop these skills during your college years when you do internships, complete academic projects, and participate in campus activities. For example, communication, organizational, interpersonal, and leadership abilities are transferable skills because they show an employer how valuable you are. In fact, if you’re applying for a job that you have no experience in, transferable skills can show that you can do the job. 

Skills You May Already Have

When you think about your communication skills, ask yourself how strong your public speaking skills are and if you’re able to coherently articulate your thoughts. Not only are your verbal skills essential, but your nonverbal skills are critical, too. For example, how well do you write or edit? When you consider your organizational skills, think about your ability to multitask, set deadlines and follow through. If you want to assume a leadership role after college, think about your ability to delegate, build teams, and resolve conflict. 

If you’ve identified that you lack in some of the above abilities, there are some actions you can take to improve those skills while you’re in college.

How to Boost Your Transferable Skills 

To expand your communication skills while in college, you can participate in classroom presentations or become a member of the drama club or debate team. You can also take part in internships and take advantage of opportunities that allow you to present to your co-workers.

You can boost your organizational skills, ability to multitask, and time-management skills by doing other projects in addition to your classroom projects. For example, you might have a semester-long math project and an organization at your school that’s asking for volunteers for a project. That would be an opportune time to improve your transferable skills.

Finally, you can strengthen your leadership skills by participating as the team lead on group projects. Perhaps you can take on the role of president in one of your school’s student organizations. You can also participate in activities outside of school, like becoming a board member for a local charity. How well you communicate your transferable skills on your resume and during a job interview will be the key factors to landing that position.

So, remember the old saying that we have to crawl before we can walk. At some point, we’ve all had to experience our first job. College is the time for you to learn who you are and to develop yourself professionally. But, your marketable skills will play a vital role in your future success, and building them starts before you enter the workforce.

It feels like you’ve been staring at the same blank document for hours, yet inspiration just won’t come. Few things are as frustrating as a case of writer’s block. It can strike at any time, especially when you’re afraid of failure, feeling stressed or tired, or suffering from the effects of conditions including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety. However, there are some ways to combat the problem and kick writer’s block to the curb.

Create an Outline

Many of us have writer’s block because we know what we want to write, but we aren’t sure how to write it. We agonize over the details, and that prevents us from moving forward. If you relate to this search for perfectionism, you may benefit from creating an outline.

An outline can give you a template for your writing. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and that can be very freeing. Note the points you want to write about, any quotations you will use, and the information you’ll include in your introduction and conclusion. With this outline as a guide, you’ll find it easier to flesh out your writing.

Take a Break, but Avoid Procrastinating

Sitting at your computer willing the right words to come can quickly become frustrating. In these instances, you need to break the cycle to break your writer’s block. Walk away from your screen and try to focus on something else. Going for a walk, watching a favorite TV program, or indulging in a creative passion like painting or baking can give your brain a rest and help it recharge.

Just make sure you don’t break for too long and start procrastinating. It’s important to give yourself enough time to work through your ideas and come up with the best paper you can.

Work the Problem Through With a Tutor

Tutors can help you tackle all kinds of academic problems, including beating writer’s block. When a nasty case strikes, schedule a meeting with your tutor. Talk about the problems you’re facing and what you want to express in your writing. Your tutor can help you organize your thoughts and develop them in your writing. He or she may also review your work after you’re finished. Knowing that another set of eyes will assess your work before you submit it can ease some of the pressure you feel and help you beat that writer’s block.

Just Start Writing

Stop second-guessing yourself and let the words flow. Imagine you needed to stand up and present a speech on your topic now. Write down the words you would use. Don’t worry about whether they’re formal enough or technical enough. The important thing is to simply get them down. You can go back and edit your work later. As you start to write, you’ll likely find the writer’s block fading away and your confidence growing. You might even be surprised to find the words you wrote when you were feeling blocked aren’t as bad as you imagined.

When writer’s block strikes, take a deep breath and put these steps into place. It shouldn’t take long before your creative juices are flowing again.

Your college tuition covers the cost of on-campus amenities, so you might as well use them whether you’re a first-year student or finishing your last year of study. Here are four ideas to get you started.

Athletic Center

Most college campuses have a fitness center where students can run on the treadmill, lift free weights, and use exercise machines. Other common amenities include swimming pools, football and soccer fields, and tennis courts. Some schools even have rock-climbing walls.

If you’re looking for something more structured, you may want to look into fitness classes such as yoga, dance, or kickboxing. Looking for a group sport? Check to see if your school offers intramural leagues. Information is usually listed on the college’s website, but you can also call or visit the recreation center to learn about events or programs that didn’t make it online.

Academic Resources

If you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to boost your grades, make sure to check out the on-campus academic resources. Need help with a paper? The writing center can teach you writing strategies, give you feedback on structure and content, or help you with developing the draft. For subject-specific help, check out the individual or group tutoring services. The tutors are usually students who successfully passed the class already.

Some schools offer workshops on general study techniques such as time management. Also keep in mind that colleges should provide reasonable accommodations for students with learning disabilities or hearing or visual disabilities. Contact the learning center to find out if it provides more learning aids such as recorded notes. In certain circumstances, the school may allow extended time for taking tests.

Health and Counseling Services

With a health center right on campus, there’s no excuse for neglecting your well-being. It’s useful whether you’re ill, need to book your yearly physical exam, or just need to ask for a prescription renewal. Depending on the college, you may also be able to get any needed blood tests in the same building. Free counseling services are also available if you ever need to talk to someone.

Career Services

Because you’re going to college to train for a career, it goes without saying that your school is one of the best places to find career-related resources. Haven’t chosen a major yet? A career counselor can help you go over your options. Searching for a job or internship? The adviser can give you interview tips, discuss job-search strategies, or help you with your résumé.

It’s also a good idea to conduct research on your own. Most colleges post resources through their websites so students can take self-assessment quizzes, explore career paths, research different industries, and more. You should also keep an eye open for on-campus events like career fairs or networking workshops.

Make the most of your college experience, and check out at least one of these amenities. To learn more, you can search your school’s website or call the main campus line to be patched through to the correct department.

College is great, but every new experience carries unfamiliar risks with it. Whether you’re living away from home for the first time, juggling a part-time job with full-time studies, partying every chance you get, or all the above, you could run into unexpected problems. Here are a few common risks to look out for.

Illness

It’s common for students to fall ill, especially when living in a dorm with many other people. In small quarters, one student’s sickness can travel quickly from one person to the next. You may also find your good health habits slipping; many students don’t get enough sleep or eat healthy meals. Combine this with general stress, and you become a living petri dish for hungry bacteria.

To avoid getting sick, take care of yourself and wash your hands often. Keeping your immune system strong helps your body fend off common viruses like the flu. However, you may still end up in an accident or contract a more serious illness. Prepare for the worst and find out what your school’s policy is for parental notification; some colleges won’t notify your family of a serious illness without your consent. If that’s the case for you, have a parent or other trusted person listed with the school as an emergency contact.

Depression

Attending college is a wonderful experience, but there are many stressors that can lead to depression, such as homesickness, financial issues, and relationship problems. There are many types of depression, and people can experience different symptoms; you may not even feel sad, but rather irritable or even apathetic about things you used to care about.

Most colleges provide free counseling for students. If you think you might have depression, contact your school’s health center. A trained professional can teach you coping strategies, discuss possible solutions, or just be there to lend an ear.

Alcohol and Drug Interactions

Partying is a great way to blow off steam, and alcohol won’t hurt you so long as you drink smart. Unfortunately, your prescription or over-the-counter medication might be deadly when combined with alcohol. It’s also possible for someone to slip a date-rape drug into your drink. 

Protect your drink from being spiked. Depending on the type of drug used and the attacker’s intentions, you could be robbed or sexually assaulted. Worst case scenario, you could end up in a coma or dead. Stick with your friends, never leave your drink unattended, and know what warning signs to watch for.

Another problem that’s less talked about but equally dangerous is that certain medications interact with alcohol. The medication may increase the alcohol’s effect, or the alcohol may increase the risk of drug side effects such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, or internal bleeding. For example, mixing alcohol with acetaminophen, an OTC pain reliever, may cause liver damage. When taking medication, check the label to make sure you can safely take it while drinking.

The college lifestyle carries certain risks, but with a bit of foreknowledge and strategy, you can avoid at least some of them.

Living with a roommate is part of the college experience. Whether you choose to room with someone you know or let the school set you up with a stranger, you’ll likely face at least one or two challenging situations. Prepare yourself for the year ahead with these tips for sharing your space with a roommate.

Talk Before Meeting Each Other

If possible, talk to your roommate on the phone or in person before your move-in date. Doing so will help you feel less nervous about meeting each other. You can also decide who is going to bring what, such as a mini-fridge, microwave, or furniture.

Talk about personal habits. Is one of you a neat freak while the other is a slob? Are you both early birds, or does your new roommate normally stay up until 3 a.m.? You should have this discussion even if you’re moving in with someone you already know.

Respect Each Other’s Schedules

No matter how considerate you are, you may still unknowingly annoy your roommate. Talk about your class schedules and study habits early on, and set ground rules. For example, if your roommate is a light sleeper, don’t let your alarm clock beep too long in the morning. If you have an exam the next day, ask your roommate to give you quiet time so you can study. Do you both wake up early each day? Figure out how to share the bathroom without making each other late.

Dealing with Hook-ups and Relationships

You don’t have much privacy when you share a room with someone, and this is even more apparent when one or both of you has a boyfriend or girlfriend or starts hooking up with people. Neither one of you wants to feel as if a third person has moved in, but you probably want to able to bring someone home.

Talk about your expectations. What visiting hours are you both OK with? Are overnight guests allowed? If so, how many nights a week is too much? Do you feel uncomfortable with your flat mate bringing home complete strangers? Be upfront with each other, and set etiquette rules that you both agree with.

Discuss Problems Early

Confronting someone is never fun, but sometimes you just need to do it. If your roommate does something that bothers you, bring it up right away. Try to stay calm; he or she may not realize the actions are upsetting you. Letting it go and hoping things get better rarely solves the problem. Instead, you’ll become resentful and start acting passive-aggressively toward your roommate, making things even worse. 

If you’ve tried to fix a problem with your roommate, but nothing is working, ask your RA for help. He or she can help you find a solution, whether that’s approaching your roommate differently or moving into a different room. Remember that you don’t need to become best friends with your roommate. Your goal is to have a cordial relationship. If you happen to become friends, that’s a bonus.

The key to getting along with your new mate is communication and respect. If things become tense, try following one or more of these tips. In most situations, you can make it work with a roommate. 

Whether you’re attending an Ivy League school or a local community college, tuition is expensive. You may be tempted to use a credit card so you can pay your tuition gradually over time. Plus, some credit cards offer generous rewards in the form of cash back, airline miles, or other perks. But, is paying your tuition with a credit card really a good idea? Here are some reasons why you should think twice before breaking out the plastic.

Schools Charge a Convenience Fee

The convenience of paying your tuition with a credit card often comes with a school-imposed convenience fee. The fee varies by school, but it can be anywhere between 2-3 percent of the amount you put on the card. That percentage may not seem like a big deal, but it can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars throughout your college career if you frequently use a credit card to cover tuition.

One survey asked a range of public, private, and community colleges about their policy regarding credit card payments. Of the 92 public institutions in the survey, 83 charge a fee.

Credit Card Interest Rates Are High

You’ve probably heard it said time and time again that credit card interest rates are often sky high, but the sentiment bears repeating. Many college students don’t have spectacular credit simply because their credit history is so short; if that is the case for you, it will be especially difficult for you to find a card with both a high spending limit and a reasonable interest rate.

Scrutinize any credit cards you get approved for. Some may offer a low initial interest rate that will spike after the first six months. You don’t want most of your payments to end up going toward interest rather than the principle. If you make minimum payments, it could take you decades to pay off the card, and you would be paying thousands more than if you had used another method to pay your tuition.

There Are Better Alternatives

Because there are so many convenient and low-cost ways to pay for college, there’s no reason for you to resort to using a credit card. Some of the best ways to pay for school include:

  • Federal student loans and grants. A grant is something you won’t have to pay back at all. You do have to make payments on federal student loans, but the interest rates are generally low. Some student loans are even eligible for loan forgiveness after a specified period of time.
  • Scholarships. You can visit the counseling office at your school to find out if you qualify to apply for any scholarships.
  • Federal Work-Study. This program provides part-time employment to help students in need pay for their tuition and related expenses.
  • Help from family and friends. If you accept a loan from any family members or friends, be sure to put it in writing and make sure each person has a copy of it so you avoid misunderstandings that might pop up later.

Affording college is tough, and resorting to a credit card to cover tuition can make it even tougher. Put the plastic away and look for better ways to pay.

College costs go well beyond the price of tuition, so covering expenses calls for creative solutions to make money. In addition to the savings, grants, scholarships, and loans used to pay for school, part-time income can also provide a vital financial boost while you are earning your degree.
Sometimes, work commitments can interfere with your first priority of getting an education. The key to lining your pockets without sacrificing good grades is finding balance and scheduling your work outside study hours. Easier said than done? Fortunately, there are lots of ways to make cash while you’re still in school, without failing in the classroom.

Conventional College Cash

Work/Study – These structured programs are part of a complete financial aid package. Students fortunate enough to land these positions may be put to work in administration offices, academic departments, food service facilities, and other convenient campus locations. To be considered, apply through regular financial aid channels.

Hospitality Jobs – Hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other food and beverage outlets require staff. And hospitality is a 24-hour business, so the hours present flexible scheduling options for college students. Not only that, but many of these service positions include tips, so the pay is above average. Front desk positions, kitchen jobs, wait staff, and bartending spots are all fair game during school. And if you play your cards right, a part-time hospitality job could grow into an internship or full-time management-level work.

Childcare and House/Pet-Sitting

Side sitting jobs can furnish a steady source of income. If you don’t know a lot of people in your college town, your professors and school advisors may be a good starting point for finding this type of work. Once established with a satisfied customer or two, word of mouth will keep clients coming in.

A Little Less Conventional

If you are a budding entrepreneur or simply march to the beat of your own drum, consider one of these ideas.

Resale Business – From textbooks to gently used electronics, second-hand sales can help you earn money during school. A flexible, self-inspired resale business can be run from home during hours you choose. And you’ll learn lessons about marketing, accounting, customer service, and business management.

Blood/Plasma – This isn’t for the squeamish, but regular plasma donations can add up to a sizable part-time income.

Driving Jobs – Driving for Uber or Lyft can generate part-time income, but your age or level of experience might get in your way. If you’re not yet eligible to drive for one of these high-profile companies, look at food delivery opportunities instead. Or start your own service hauling goods, turning your car or minivan into a money-maker.

Reviews and Feedback – Information is valuable, so your opinions and feedback can bring in cash. Secret shoppers, for instance, are paid to interact with staff and rate their performance. Audiences also earn money by providing viewer feedback about commercials, TV programming, and movies.

When your college cash flow stalls and you need a financial boost, don’t despair. There are plenty of ways to earn extra money, from traditional jobs like waiting tables to new-fashioned jobs like second-hand internet sales.

With social media platforms from LinkedIn all the way to Twitter, you can make or break your chances of performing well in college and finding a job after graduation. Used properly, these websites can help you connect with other people in your field of study. Used improperly, they’ll distract you and hurt your grades.

How can you balance your online social life with your academic life? How do you focus on studying without checking how many “likes” you got on your latest Facebook post? Check out these tips for making social media work in your favor.

Replace Multitasking with Single Tasking

Do you send text messages while you’re in class? Do you check your Twitter notifications while you’re writing a paper? If so, you’re less likely to remember important information. You may think you’re multitasking, but studies show that multitasking’s value is a myth. When you do two or more tasks at a time, what you’re really doing is task-switching. This practice decreases your concentration, which in turn affects your grades.

To increase your productivity, try focusing on one task at a time for 25 minutes to two hours. For example, you can close extra windows on your computer while you work on an essay, and then check your email afterward. Try turning your phone off during class. To let your brain recharge, you should also take a 15-minute break from both studying and social media every couple of hours.

Post Carefully

Used wisely, social media can boost your career. Some people have even been hired directly through these sites. For example, Colleen Ballinger now has a show on Netflix starring her YouTube character, Miranda Sings. However, posting the wrong photos or updates online can cost you job opportunities. According to Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, 55 percent of recruiters have reconsidered candidates based on their profiles on social media sites.

To make the most of your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, use proper grammar and avoid posting profanity, sexual content, and references to illegal drugs. You should also avoid posting any negative comments about previous jobs or employers. 

Consider Cutting Back

Unlike the U.K., the U.S. doesn’t yet recognize social media addiction as an official condition. However, you should still use social media sites in moderation. You may have a problem if you find that your usage negatively affects your grades or your relationships with other people. 

To cut back on your social media use, you can disable notifications on your phone or download apps that block the internet. Schedule a specific time to check your messages once per day. Don’t know what to do with your newly found free time? Try taking up a hobby or joining a club. Meet people in person more often. Some people opt to do a complete social media “detox” by disabling every account. If you choose to go this route, you can expect withdrawal symptoms to disappear after about 100 days. 

As with any tool, the way you use social media determines whether it helps or hinders you. Don’t let social media hold you back in your academic life. Try following at least one of these tips, and see if it makes a difference.