College is a time for exploring your options and discovering your passion. Sometimes, though, pursuing that passion might mean that you have to change majors. This isn’t uncommon; about three out of four college students change their major at some point during their educations. However, before you take the leap to another major, be sure to consider the consequences of doing so.

The Cost of Changing Course

Thoroughly examine the course requirements of the major you’re considering switching to. How many extra semesters will you have to spend in school to fulfill those requirements? Each of those additional credits comes with a price tag. Some colleges even have an “excess hours credit rule,” which means they charge more for courses that will keep you in school significantly longer than students who never change their major. Talk to your counselor about the new major you want to take on, and be sure you understand any added fees that come with switching. The more often you switch your major, the more likely you are to hurt your bank account. You also have to consider not just the cost of the classes themselves, but also the extra money you’ll have to spend on class materials such as textbooks.

The Best Time to Switch Majors

Simply put, if you’re going to change your major, you should do it as soon as possible. According to CollegeTransfer.net, “If you are within your first 60 credits, you have a better chance of moving your credits and course work around to other majors or programs of study than if you are already taking major or upper level courses you no longer have interest in nor may the credits be applicable when you change your major.” If you are beyond the first 60 credits of your degree, compare your current courses with the requirements for your new major. The more overlap there is, the cheaper the switch will be.

How to Mitigate the Costs of Switching

If you decide that switching majors is the right option for you, be careful how you go about it. If your current school does not offer the required courses for your new major, you will have to spend extra time and money on applying to other schools and going through the hassle of transferring your credits. It is best to stick with your current school. You can also investigate scholarship opportunities within your new major. Some scholarships are specifically geared toward certain career tracks. Also, since each change to your major results in extra expenses, perform thorough research about the major you want to switch to. Interview other people who have the same major or who entered a career after completing that major. Learn all you can so your next major switch is your last one.

Changing majors is a big decision, and it isn’t a cheap one. Before you commit to a new major, carefully consider the financial consequences as well as your personal feelings. You don’t want to have any regrets about your decision.

What’s for dinner? If that question makes you think about the packaged ramen waiting in your dorm room, don’t fret. Ramen isn’t the only food you can cook if the sole appliance you have access to is a microwave. Check out these tasty microwave-friendly foods that will get you out of your ramen rut.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are both simple and delicious. Buy some corn or flour tortillas, add some shredded cheese, and microwave to hot cheesy goodness. For variety, try different blends of cheeses. Use your favorite salsa to give your meal a bit of spice and sneak in some vegetables. The protein in the cheese will power you through those late-night study sessions.

Pasta

Ramen is a noodle but it’s not pasta. Mix up your dinner routine with the real thing. Bring water to a boil in a microwave-safe bowl. (Glass and ceramic are good choices; avoid plastic, as it may melt.) While the water is very hot, add noodles of your choice, cover the container, and wait for the noodles to cook. You might have to pop the container back in the microwave to keep the water sufficiently hot. Once the noodles are tender, drain them and pile on your favorite pasta sauce.

Rice

Rice, particularly brown rice, is a healthy grain that is a good choice for folks who are trying to eat well on a college budget. Some companies sell rice in a bag that is ready to go for microwave cooking; simply follow the instructions. You can also cook other kinds of rice in the microwave. Put water, butter, and rice in a small casserole dish and pop them in the microwave on high for about five minutes. Stir, and then cook on medium for another 15 minutes.

Frozen Meals

The meals you find in the freezer aisle at the grocery store get a bad rap for being tasteless and unhealthy. There are healthy and tasty choices available; just take the time to read the labels to find options that will give you the nutrients you need. If a meal is too bland for you, liven it up with cheese, extra veggies, or seasonings.

Boneless Chicken Breast

If you want lean protein, buy some fresh boneless chicken breast. Place the breast in a glass casserole dish and add enough water so it is half-submerged. Cover it with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about four minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of the breast. Check to make sure the meat is cooked all the way through, but also be careful not to overcook it; you don’t want the breast to become so tough you can’t eat it. Pair the chicken with some rice, and you have a healthy and filling meal!

Bacon

When you’re in the mood for some meaty salty deliciousness, put a couple of paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Lay some sliced bacon on the paper towels, making sure that the slices don’t overlap. Cover the bacon with more paper towels, and microwave on high for about five minutes.

College students aren’t doomed to eat ramen and cheap takeout. Try the above foods to add some variety to your diet.

1655900Happy New Year! And with the new year comes the new semester (yay!) and with that, well, getting textbooks (boo!) But this year, getting books doesn’t have to hurt. You don’t have to wait in lines, deal with crowded bookstores, lug tons of heavy hardcovers back to your dorm, or break your bank account.

Simply put, now is the time to buy books for spring semester. Order your books today so that you have the best chances of getting money-saving used textbooks delivered to you in time for school to start. If you wait, chances are that all that will be left are ridiculously expensive new books and you won’t have them in time for the first day of classes. What happens then? You’ve not only taken a financial hit, you’re starting on the back foot and having to catch up on the material.

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying or renting print books or downloading digital textbooks, we’ve got you covered by scouring dozens of booksellers and marketplaces and merchants all competing for your business. And to help you save even more, we’ve just added loads of coupons so look for that icon when you shop. Take good care of your books now so you can sell them for cash at the end of the term.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.