There’s three months of summer break ahead and plenty of time to travel for fun and for education and to make some of that travel international. Maybe you’ve never had a passport before or maybe you have and it’s expired. Either way, now is the time to get that document on file, up to date, and in hand.

Getting Your Passport

Applying for a passport usually takes about 6-8 weeks from start to finish. If you have this time or more before you leave on your trip, you have nothing to worry about.

  • Getting Your First Passport: You’ll need to apply in person at a local office or online. Many US Post Offices serve as these facilities and they can even take your regulation photo there.
  • Renewing an Expired/Expiring Passport: If your document has expired or it will expire within three to six months (depending on where you’re going) of your departure date, you need to renew it. You can renew by mail or online at the U.S. Department of State website. The online application process is simple and will walk you through the steps, making sure you’re eligible for online application at every step of the way.

Getting It Fast

In a hurry because your trip departs in fewer than six weeks? No worries, but you will have to get an expedited renewal. You can get your passport expedited online or at a passport office for an extra charge. Online, you’ll pay an extra $60 fee for expedited service.

In a rush but have time to do a mail renewal? Cool. You can also expedite the process by paying for overnight mail delivery. You can send your renewal forms in via overnight delivery and have them sent back similarly fast. Paying for overnight delivery doesn’t expedite the processing of your renewal, but it does expedite the mailing speed.

Getting It Really Fast

If your departure is fewer than three weeks away, you’ll need to visit a passport center to get your document in enough time. Search online for the nearest office, collect the necessary paperwork, and find out if you need an appointment and you’ll be well on your way to getting your passport as quickly as possible. Provided that you arrive with all documentation and a passport photo, you may be able to get your new ID within the week or possibly even the same day for a renewal.

Should there not be a local office near where you live, you can also call the National Passport Information Center 24 hours a day for help. They can answer any question you might have about documentation and international travel.

Expediters

There are companies that claim to expedite the process, but most of these companies are not trustworthy to follow through with their promises. On top of that, they charge outrageous prices for their services. Beware!

If you find yourself in a need of expedited procurement or renewal, the government offers many resources to help you. Be sure to stay calm, ask questions politely, and follow directions as closely as possible. You’ll be on your way overseas before you know it.

Remember that even if you don’t have travel on the horizon, a passport is an invaluable form of ID to possess.

It’s easy to forget about self-care during finals week, but that doesn’t mean you should put it on hold. Taking care of yourself keeps you sane and it helps you stay energetic and focused enough to do well on your exams. Here are a few tips to follow.

Exercise

We already know that physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, but it may do even more than that. A recent study found that people who exercised a few hours after learning new information were more likely to remember it than those who didn’t exercise. Try boosting your brain and make time to go for a walk, attend a fitness class, or play your favorite sport.

If you’re really short on time, you could also bring your notes to the gym and study while you’re on the elliptical machine or exercise bike. Need motivation? Find a workout buddy; it’s easier to get your butt in gear when someone else is counting on you.

Indulge Yourself

Look, you’re a human being — not a study machine. Whatever it is you’re dying to do, make time for it. Change out of those sweatpants and have an extra-long shower. Paint your toenails. Doodle in your sketchbook or talk on the phone with a friend. Heck, blast your music and dance around in your underwear if it’ll make you feel better. It’s important to do well on your exams, but it shouldn’t cost you your sanity.

Eat Properly

When you’re short on time, it’s tempting to just eat ramen noodles and call it a meal. It’s fine to do that sometimes, but you really should get in some healthy meals. Getting enough nutrients keeps your energy up and keeps your immune system strong. Let that slip too much, and you’re susceptible to colds and other viruses. Studying is horrible when you need to blow your nose every two minutes.

Ideally, you should cook a meal that includes vegetables. If that feels like too much work, pick up some healthy snacks. There are plenty of inexpensive, ready-to-eat foods such as apples, bananas, crackers and peanut butter, yogurt, or baby carrots and hummus.

Get Enough Sleep

This may seem like an impossible task, but it’s really important to get enough sleep. Many students don’t get enough shut-eye, which leads to decreased concentration, memory, and overall performance. Clearly, this doesn’t do much to help you when you’re trying to memorize several months’ worth of notes.

It’s better to get a full night of rest, but if that all-night cramming session is unavailable, you should try napping. Naps can’t compensate for inadequate sleep, but they’ll make you feel more alert. Keep your nap between 20 and 30 minutes, and you’ll wake up feeling refreshed. To boost your memory and creativity, try sleeping for 90 minutes; this is enough time to complete a full sleep cycle. Anything between 30 to 60 minutes, however, will make you feel worse.

Finals week is so hectic that you probably feel like all you do is study. Change that feeling by following at least one of these self-care tips. You’ll feel better, and you’ll probably remember your notes better too.

In Textbook Buyback: Getting the Most Money (Part 1), we covered basics such as comparison shopping for the highest buyback offers, reading the fine print, following textbook buyback rules and best practices, and avoiding the campus bookstore.

Now in Part 2, we’ll go deeper and show you how putting in a little more work can basically lead to incredibly cheap textbooks or books that actually make you money to buy, use, and sell. Think of it like the stock market and investing; it’s all about timing and buying low and selling high.

Bigger Bucks at Buyback: Here’s How It Works

You don’t have to be an Econ. major to understand supply and demand. Bottom line: the more available something is, the less valuable it is and thus, the cheaper it is to buy; the more scarce a resource, the more expensive. What happens at textbook buyback? Students form a long line to turn over the same books as everybody else in line and many students in many lines at many colleges. ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The market is flooded, which is why that clerk at the bookstore tells you that your book gets you $3 back or the bookstore isn’t even buying it.

A quick note here: there’s other stuff at work such as new editions coming out that replace existing editions, professors not knowing which books they will use the next semester thus leaving the bookstore not knowing which books to stock, etc. But let’s stick to what we know, namely that in December and May right after finals, students sell their books back and that creates a surplus, which devalues the textbooks.

And Here’s What You Can Do

Buy or rent textbooks?

What can you do about this? Well, you can’t control what other people do or what bookstores pay or when semesters end, but with a little knowledge, foresight, and patience, you can hang onto your books a little longer and likely sell them for more cash back when the market isn’t saturated with too many copies.

Step 1: Know when to buy textbooks and know when to rent textbooks. This was kind of a crapshoot until we came up with the CampusBooks.com Buy Vs. Rent SuperBot, which uses historical and predictive data to give you the total cost of ownership for any textbook. What’s total cost of ownership? That’s what it costs you to get the book and use it, whether that’s buying it and selling it back or renting it and returning it. Sometimes it’s cheaper to rent, sometimes it’s cheaper to buy and sell back, and now you can know and make smart money decisions rather than guess and take a costly hit.

Step 2: For books you rented, just get them back on time and in good condition. For books you bought and do not want to keep, sell them when they are the most in demand and most valuable, namely in late August and early January. Straight up: that is when buyback prices are the highest because the books are in the greatest demand (because it’s back to school time and buyers need your books so they can sell them to other students). Get it? Sell your textbooks when everyone else is buying them and you’ll get top dollar, sometimes enough so that the total cost of ownership was nothing (free textbooks!) or to make a little money.

Graduating from college is a huge milestone in a person’s life, but after the ceremony, what comes next? Planning for your financial future seems a daunting task when you’re unsure where you’re headed. Still, it’s important to start preparing a little so you’re not taken by surprise when unplanned events affect your finances.

Whether you’re thinking about saving to buy a home, to travel, or to put some money away for retirement, there are several things to think about. Before you feel overwhelmed, sit down and write out some financial goals and think of some ways you can achieve them realistically. Ask for advice from a parent or trusted family friend who has been in your shoes, then follow these tips on how to start planning.

Set Some Financial Goals

Write down what you want to achieve and research what it will take to get there. If you’re ready to start your career, move out on your own, buy a home, or take some time off to travel, you need goals and plans. Start small on your list of goals. For instance, if you’re looking to buy a home, give yourself a timeline in which to save money and begin looking for the right neighborhood. Remember not to be too hard on yourself. Life is full of changes and setbacks, so keep the financial goals flexible and realistic for now.

Start Saving Money

No matter what your goals are, it’s a good idea to start saving money now. Life is expensive and you’ll want to be prepared for whatever it throws at you. Get creative and think of little ways you can save cash that won’t affect your daily life too much; for instance, ask a coworker if they’re willing to take turns carpooling, take your lunch to work rather than eating out, and make sure your apartment or home is energy-efficient to save on your utility bills. You could also cut out cable TV since there are so many inexpensive choices these days for watching shows and movies.

Help Others Help You Save

See if your employer will take a certain amount of money out of your paycheck automatically to put toward a 401K plan; this way, saving a little every payday is much easier, and since it’s taken right out of your check, you won’t even miss it. If you’re a freelancer who gets a 1099, you’ll more than likely have to find your own plan and be responsible for setting aside some money each week on your own. You can also download an app for your bank onto your phone so you can keep track of the balance in your checking and savings account and transfer amounts as needed.

Manage Your Credit Wisely

You may think you already know how to take care of your credit but it’s very easy to let it spiral out of control when you’re a recent college grad. Paying off student loans, financing a car or home, and buying furniture for a new place can all run up a credit-card bill and keep you in debt. When possible, save up for big purchases and don’t be seduced by the discount offered on your purchase when you open up a new account or credit line. If you do have to use a card, pay off the balance as soon as possible to avoid paying high interest rates.

Planning for a sound financial future can be an overwhelming task, so start small and ask for help from friends and family when you feel like you’re in over your head.

Guest post by Lawrence Mager, ReadyBrain.net.

College students are juggling a variety of obligations, such as classes, Greek life, study groups, jobs, and sports. It’s easy to be busy and forget about how your lifestyle is impacting the environment. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to go green while living on campus.

Go Green in the Dining Hall

Many people like the convenience of using paper or Styrofoam containers for their food. You can go green in the dining hall by staying away from disposable containers. Put your food and drink in containers that the staff can wash and reuse. Encourage your friends to do the same. You can even cut back on having to use glassware for beverages. If the cafeteria allows it, bring your own mug or water bottle. And if you grab food to go, bring your own reusable bag.

Join Your Campus Green Team

Almost every university has a group of students who are working to implement green practices across campus. Whether it’s called a “green team” or something different, the campus group spends its efforts on reducing waste and encouraging policies that will protect the environment. From making a campus more bicycle friendly to increasing the visibility of recycling bins, these groups lead their campuses toward making meaningful changes. Check out the next group meeting to see how you can get involved. It’s also a great way to meet new people and spend time outside.

Make It Easy to Recycle

Most campuses offer recycling bins for paper, plastic, and glass. But the bins may be in common areas, meaning students may or may not remember to bring their recyclables to the receptacle. To solve this problem, you simply need to make it as easy to set aside items for recycling as it is to throw them in the garbage. Buy a container for your dorm room where you can place recyclable material and put it right next to your trash can. When it’s full, dump it in one of the university’s larger bins. With this plan, it’s easy to separate recyclables from trash for the landfill.

If you’re part of a campus green team, start a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of recycling. Your group can create promotional videos and develop eye-catching signage to help students understand how to separate trash and recyclables into the correct bins.

Turn It Off and Unplug

Every time you leave your dorm room, turn off all lights and electronics that don’t need to remain on. You can also reduce your energy consumption by only plugging in appliances when in use. For example, if you keep a coffee pot in your room, only plug it in when you’re ready to brew coffee. Other items you can likely unplug include phone chargers, microwaves, and laptops. Even when off, appliances still use power simply by being plugged in.

Use Less Paper

Even though you may have to print off some assignments, opt to submit your papers digitally whenever possible. You can also decrease the margins on your papers to decrease how many pages you print or you can print on both sides of the page. At Penn State University, students, administrators, and professors have decreased paper usage by 5 percent simply by changing margins from 1.25 to .75 inches.

As an individual and a member of a green team, you can make your campus greener and reduce your impact on the environment.

College, with a host of environmental clubs and recycling programs available on most campuses is the ideal place to explore your passion for the planet. But before you take all your trash to the recycling bins, it’s important to know what really belongs there. Here are some of the more-surprising things that you can and can’t recycle.

Mind Your Plastics

Americans create 10.5 million tons of plastic waste every year. Only 1 to 2 percent of that gets recycled, but much more of it could be reprocessed. Check the code on your plastic container to see whether it’s recyclable. Plastic collection for recycling varies by city based upon equipment and labor. In general:

  • Plastic items with codes 1 and 2 are always recyclable. Bin them with ease (and try to keep your plastic usage minimal and limited to codes 1 and 2).
  • Those with codes 3, 6, and 7 should almost always be put in the regular trash (unless you’ve been notified otherwise by your campus).
  • Plastic waste with codes 4 and 5 are accepted by some recycling facilities but not others so ask your campus recycling program coordinator what you should do with these.

You’ve also got to make sure your plastic is clean. A half-empty plastic container or soda bottle could contaminate an entire bale of plastic that should have been recycled. Dump the waste and give it a rinse.

Recycle Batteries Properly

We all use dry-cell batteries to power our alarm clocks, remote controls, and household gadgets. As a nation, we buy 3 billion of these batteries every year. You might not realize that alkaline, carbon-zinc, NiCad, and NiMH batteries can all be recycled, but not in the regular way. You can order a Think Green From Home Dry Cell Battery Recycling Kit from Waste Management. The kit is actually just a box that you fill with your used batteries. After you fill the box, use the pre-paid return shipping label to send it away for safe recycling.

Forget About Those Pizza Boxes

Pizza boxes are made from cardboard, and cardboard is recyclable, so you head for your nearest recycling bin whenever you have a pizza party. Not so fast. Pizza boxes are nearly always tainted with food and grease, which are real headaches for recycling plants.

“The oil causes great problems for the quality of the paper, especially the binding of the fibers,” Phoenix solid waste administrative analyst Terry Gellenbeck told Earth911. “It puts in contaminants, so when they do squeeze the water out, it has spots and holes.”

Now that you know what you can and can’t recycle, gather up the right waste and properly recycle it. The United States generates 40 percent of the world’s waste, more than any other nation on the planet. Recycling helps us put much of that waste to good use and we all have a part to play.

The end of the school year is in sight but it still feels like a marathon ahead. This time of the year can be make-it-or-break-it time. It’s a weird window where things either feel possible and under control or totally unmanageable and already lost. It’s on you to make sure that you experience the former scenario and bust through that finish line with good grades as your medal.

First, understand that all students have moments in their college careers where they look their grades up online and realize with a sinking feeling that the grades aren’t as good as they thought. Never fear; there’s always something you can do to raise your grades, and you don’t have to wait until the very end of the semester and pin your hopes on extra credit or finals. We’ve put together a list of tips that will help you to get your grades up right now.

Figure Out the Obstacles Preventing You from Good Grades

Before you can fix a problem, you need to understand the problem. Once you notice that your grades aren’t quite what you want them to be, take some time to examine which classes are the problem. Then think about why those classes may be difficult for you. Is there something those courses or professors have in common? Look for what’s got you blocked.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I consistently understand the material?
  • Do I complete assignments?
  • Am I making it to every class and really being present?
  • Do I prepare properly for quizzes and tests?
  • Is the reading tough to comprehend?

Once you’ve figured out what the problem might be, it’s time to take the next step and fix the problem. This is where a professor, study buddy, or tutor can help.

Ask For Help

If you notice that you’re struggling with one or two specific classes, it might be the subject matter that’s giving you trouble. If this is the case, it’s time to ask for help.

Buddy Up with a Study Partner

If you know you have the ability to understand the material but maybe you just don’t have the motivation to study, find a study partner. Having someone else to study with can really help motivate you to study more often and more thoroughly. You and your study partner can help each other better understand the material and check that understanding by teaching it to each other. It’s like going to the gym in that you’ll keep each other on track.

Find a Tutor

If you’re struggling with comprehension of the material, it might be time to seek the help of a tutor. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, doing so says a lot about a person’s intelligence and flexibility and desire to improve. A tutor can help make sure that you understand the material and are therefore prepared for quizzes and tests. Sometimes it’s just seeing how someone else has mastered the material that makes the difference.

See Your Professor

Pay a visit during your professor’s office hours. This is not to say that you should ask the professor to raise your grade; far from it. Talking to your professor lets him or her know you’re struggling with the material and that you care enough to take responsibility for upping your grades. Your professor might have recommendations for resources to help you learn better or may even offer you extra-credit assignments. Believe it or not, profs really are there to help and they want to see you succeed.

Try Active Learning

We get it — sometimes it’s tough to pay attention in class. Active learning skills can help you improve how you learn and retain material in class. Active learning skills can be taking thorough notes, asking questions, or gamifying your learning.

Identifying your learning style can also help you become a more active learner. Once you know how you best learn, you can seek out information in that style in class or outside of class.

Every student has that moment when he or she realizes his or her grades are lower than he or she wants. We want you to know that there’s no need to panic, because there are many steps you can take to improve your grades and become a better learner for the future.

Some people have no trouble staying focused when it comes to school, but others have difficulty doing the same thing over and over without becoming bored or easily distracted. Staying on track can be harder than it looks and grades can suffer as a result.

There are some easy ways to stay focused and engaged in class, whether you’re in high-school or college, and it’s important to know how to keep yourself on task even when you feel it’s impossible. Here are some of the best tips on how to do just that.

Get Involved

Make it a point to get involved in your classes. If you’ve been a passive learner — wherein you sit back and listen rather than participate — it will benefit you to change things up a little and get engaged. Don’t just focus, participate! Get active in class discussions, group projects, and debates and be sure to ask questions to keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

Play Brain Games

Keep your mind sharp by doing puzzles and word games designed to make you think. You can download these games on your phone and try them out whenever you have a few spare minutes — waiting at the doctor’s office, for instance — and work on your ability to think in new ways. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are like exercise for the brain.

Use All of Your Resources

Many college courses have supplemental learning resources — videos, message boards, extra reading, etc. — that go unused by a lot of students who don’t want to take the time. They may be optional, but these resources can help you get the most out of the course, so set aside extra time during study hour to at least check them out.

Train Your Brain

It may sound silly, but training your brain to pay attention to more than one thing at once can help you narrow your focus. If you play an instrument, try playing it while you sing. Put two things together and see how well you multitask. It may sound counter-intuitive but multitasking in new ways (different from being scattered or distracted) can actually sharpen your focus. If you find it difficult at first, don’t worry; many people do. Just keep trying until it becomes easier. You can do more than you think!

Get Active

Get moving! The mind and the body are integrated so treating one well benefits the other. Join a sports team, start jogging, or get up a little earlier than normal and go for a brisk walk. Daily exercise floods the brain with oxygen-rich blood and can boost mood and energy levels, so help yourself feel good by getting in a workout.

Consider Hiring a Tutor

If you find you’re having trouble in a specific class, don’t let it undermine your confidence. No one is great at everything. Consider hiring a tutor to help boost your grades — and your self-esteem. Tutors don’t just help with subject matter, they can actually help with study skills so that you can become a better learner.

Guest post by Lawrence Mager, ReadyBrain.net.

A laptop is a college student’s best friend. It lets you stay in touch with friends and family, get your homework done on time, and enjoy an occasional funny cat video. But how can you keep your laptop and all the data on it safe?

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) enables you to use a remote server when you connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as those within the campus library or at your favorite coffee shop. That remote server will encrypt your data and make it next to impossible for hackers on your Wi-Fi network to get access to your data.

You can take advantage of several free and paid VPNs. Some of the best VPNs include:

  • Hotspot Shield
  • KeepSold VPN Unlimited
  • PureVPN

Beware of Shoulder Surfing

When you want to get away from your noisy roommate, you might head to the campus library, but it isn’t just the Wi-Fi network at the library that poses a risk. The person who casually walks behind you when you’re entering your password for your banking website could be trying to glean your info. This practice is known as shoulder surfing.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of shoulder surfing is to be aware of your surroundings. If you notice anyone around you who is paying more attention than they should, move to another table or avoid using websites that require you to enter private information.

Use Strong Passwords

All of your passwords should be difficult to guess. A strong password:

  • Uses both uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Contains numbers and special characters
  • Isn’t anything obvious like the name of your pet or your significant other
  • Has at least 12 characters

Strong passwords are sometimes difficult to remember, but you should resist the temptation to use the same password for everything. You can keep a list of your passwords in a secure location; you might use a password app or create a hard copy and keep it in a safe place.

Frequently change your passwords for sites that contain sensitive information, like your banking and credit-card sites.

Guard Against Theft

According to one estimate, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.

To keep your laptop safe, register it with campus security. Many colleges will give you a sticker to put on your computer that will act as a theft deterrent. It will also help bring your laptop home if an honest person comes across it.

Also be sure to lock up your laptop. You can buy a cable lock for your laptop that will enable you to attach it to your table in the coffee shop when you have to step away to use the bathroom. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s alright to leave your laptop unattended in your car. If a thief even suspects that your car has valuable electronics in it, you could find yourself short one computer.

Keeping your data (and property) safe will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. Use the above tips to protect your information from thieves.

According to the “dress well, test well” mantra, dressing up on exam day will help you perform better on your test. It might sound like wishful thinking, but recent studies show that there might be some truth to the idea. Here are a few reasons why dressing well might give you an advantage.

Clothing May Affect Confidence

While confidence alone isn’t enough to get you a good grade, you definitely won’t perform as well if you’re too nervous to think straight. You probably already know this from personal experience, but let’s take a look at the scientific study that backs this idea up.

While conducting a study on clothing and confidence, professor Karen Pine found that students wearing “Superman” shirts gave themselves a higher rating for likeability and physical strength compared to students wearing regular clothes. Pine also had women take a math test while wearing either a swimsuit or a sweater. The women wearing swimsuits performed worse than the other group.

These results suggest that what you wear is connected with confidence and test scores. While neither study proves that your outfit will get you a better test result, the outcome is certainly compelling.

Color Influences Mood

It’s not news that color can affect your mood. Businesses have used this knowledge to their advantage for years. Fast food restaurants use bright red and yellow decor to stimulate appetite, and hospitals are more likely to have soft blue or green walls to create a calm atmosphere. The question is: How can you use color psychology to your advantage?

Try using color to improve your energy. If you pulled an all-nighter, you may find that wearing orange helps to perk you up. If you’re feeling nervous, shades of blue may calm you down. Of course, not everyone reacts to colors the same way. For one person, red may feel energizing. For another, it could induce feelings of agitation or anger. The key is to wear colors that work for you.

Your Wardrobe Can Affect Cognition

There’s a relatively new term — enclothed cognition — which states that what we wear influences how we think. Maybe you’ve noticed that when you wear gym clothes, you’re more likely to work out because it puts you into the right frame of mind. Current research looks at other types of clothing to see if there’s a similar effect.

Professor Adam D. Galinsky conducted an experiment to see if lab coats influence attention span. He found that the participants who wore a white doctor’s coat showed better attention than participants wearing regular clothes or white painter’s coats. According to Galinksy, it’s the symbolism of clothing that really matters. Doctors are careful and serious, so when people put on a doctor’s coat, they try to fit that role.

Does this mean that dressing well can help you concentrate better during your exams? Maybe. So far, it looks like the clothes you wear affect your mood, confidence, and the way that you think. The next time you take a test, wear something comfortable and flattering and see if it makes a difference.