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. 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 focused. 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 get focused. 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.

Many college students find themselves overwhelmed by the quantity of assigned reading. Even those who took rigorous courses in high school, such as advanced placement classes, might struggle to keep up with the required material their professors assign. Fortunately, there are ways you can become a better reader in order to maximize the time you spend reading and to improve your comprehension and enhance your ability to retain information.

Choose the Right Setting

Even though you might think you’re getting ahead by squeezing in a few pages here and there, it isn’t effective if your brain isn’t picking up the information you read. Visual distractions, loud or continuous noises, intrusive lighting, and the presence of other people can all reduce your ability to read textbooks quickly and remember what you read. If you find yourself rereading the same paragraph or page, the chances are high that something in your environment is distracting you. Find a quiet, comfortable place to read so that you can consume the content efficiently.

Read With an Engaged Mind

Even if you find the right environment, you might still read without grasping the information. Your mind could wander if the content seems boring. To engage your mind and improve comprehension, go beyond simply reading the material. Underline key points, mentally answer thought questions in the text, or jot down an outline of the content as you go to keep your brain alert.

Enhance Your Reading Rate

With practice, you can learn to use speed reading techniques while studying. For an easy start, try using a pen or your finger to guide your eye through the content. Because your eyes want to follow the movement, they read the content quicker than they would without the guide of the pen.

Skimming is another speed reading technique. Because it results in lower comprehension, it’s best to skim only when you’re assigned content the professor already covered in class. Skimming the material instead of skipping it altogether will help cement your retention of the information, because you’re essentially reviewing content you’ve already learned during the lecture.

Maximize Your Time

One strategy for making the best use of your time is to join with other students to split up the assigned reading. Within a small group of committed students, you can provide each other with thorough summaries, reducing the amount of actual text you have to read. This system works only if every student does his or her reading and creates a meaningful overview for others to digest.

Learn how to determine which assigned readings are important. Some professors lecture on major points from the text. When you’re short on time, you can skip sections that the professor thoroughly discussed in a lecture.

Another way to maximize your time is to listen to books while you exercise or drive. If you’re assigned a novel, you might be able to get the audiobook, depending on the title.

Whatever you’re reading, make notes on concepts that you don’t understand. There’s nothing productive about reading information that makes no sense. Your professors, their teaching assistants, or the members of your study group can answer your questions to help you understand what you’ve read.

You want your college years to be memorable and enjoyable, not just a time when you studied, panicked, and partied. There’s more to college and one way to make the most of the college experience is to join a student organization. Here are some of the perks you can expect:

Fun and Friendship

Familiarize yourself with the student organizations that operate on your campus, and join one that speaks to your interests and goals. Everyone else in the organization is likely to have a similar outlook, so it will be easy for you to strike up quality friendships that will last well beyond graduation day. You’ll also have fun as you learn the ins and outs of how to plan meaningful events.

Experience, Employability, and Networking

It’s never too early to think about your resume. Joining a student organization can provide you with valuable experience, even if the organization isn’t closely related to your intended career. You’ll still learn important skills, such as how to be a team player, how to plan events, and to raise funds and awareness.

Participation in a student organization can signal to employers that you’re passionate and willing to go the extra mile for causes close to your heart. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for a leadership position in the organization. Learning how to lead will serve you well throughout your professional career.

Don’t underestimate the power of the connections you make when you join a student organization. You’ll meet people school and in the community who will be willing to help you when the time comes to apply for jobs.

Time Management and Improved Grades

Yes, joining a student organization will make you busier, but it may also help boost your GPA. An article from Boston University Today quoted one student who said, “The busier I am, the more focused I become. Working really makes you more structured; you have a lot of things to do in a short amount of time, so it’s important to keep up with it all.”

If you’re skeptical about whether you can juggle your studies and participation in a student organization, talk to your peers who are already participating. They might have some tips and advice on how to avoid burnout and make the most out of every minute in your schedule.

Besides helping you focus and manage your time, joining a student organization can provide you with some study buddies who will motivate you to dominate your next exam.

Self-Discovery

Whenever you put yourself in a new situation, you’ll learn about your likes and dislikes, your natural talents, and the things you need to work on. Joining a student organization will reveal layers of yourself that you may have only glimpsed before.

Signing up for a student organization might be just what you need to take your college experience to the next level. Why not give it a try?

Staying healthy is challenging for many college students. You want to eat properly and get enough exercise, but how do you find the time? Here are four healthy habits that are speedy and sure to help you stave off getting sick.

Drink Enough Water

This is the easiest and cheapest health tip that we can give you. Your body is made up of about 60% water and it uses water to regulate its temperature, keep your skin healthy, and eliminate waste (yay for sweating and peeing, which are your body’s awesome built-in detox mechanisms). When you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to contract a urinary tract infection or become constipated. Drink water with each meal, and carry a water bottle with you to class.

To save money, ditch the plastic water bottle and get yourself a reusable one. If your tap water isn’t the greatest, invest in a filter to improve the water quality. You can flavor your water with lemon slices or other fruits to keep things interesting. Juice is another option, but keep in mind that many juices are loaded with sugar and calories. Doctors recommend that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You don’t have to go that far, just try to up your intake and be mindful that your body needs water more than just when you feel thirsty.

Stretch Away Your Stress

When you’re in college, stress is pretty much a given. Unfortunately, chronic stress can cause headaches, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, and even shortness of breath and full-blown panic attacks. Yoga is excellent for reducing stress and for increasing your energy levels. Check to see if your school offers yoga classes; many colleges now offer them for free or for an affordable price. Also, there are many free online routines that you can follow at home.

If yoga isn’t your thing, other options include tai-chi or walking. Try one of these exercises for 15 minutes once or twice a day and see if you notice a difference. We bet that you will and that it will be for the better.

Keep Those Germs Away

Okay, we won’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes right now. Of course you already know to practice basic hygiene, the importance of washing your hands, and that it’s best to avoid your sneezing roommate. But you might be surprised to learn where germs like to hide.
NSF International tested the homes of off-campus college students for common germs such as molds and bacteria. The three most germ-infested items were the dish sponge, the shower drain, and the kitchen sink drain. The grossest part? All three items had E. coli. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Other germy items included the coffee pot, the shower head, and the kitchen faucet handle. Unless getting sick is your idea of a fun time, make sure to clean these areas regularly. There are lots of green cleaners now that will kill bacteria while being environmentally friendly.

Healthy People Eat Breakfast

When you’re always on the go and pressed for time, good eating habits can fall by the wayside. However, there’s no excuse for skipping breakfast. No matter how busy you are, you need to eat something when you wake up. Skipping breakfast increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, and it usually makes you gain weight because you find yourself hungry soon after and eating all the wrong things to compensate. Your memory and attention can also suffer, which isn’t what you want for your morning class.

As long as you’re not drinking alcohol or scarfing down junk food, practically anything will do for breakfast. If waking up early isn’t an option, stash a banana or a muffin in your bag the night before so you can eat on the go. Have time for something hot or a trip to the dining hall? Go for something like eggs and turkey sausage — plenty of good fats and lean protein there. If you’re in a hurry, make it a low-fat yogurt for a shot of protein.

Remember that the last thing you want is to get sick and be unable to attend classes or to complete assignments. Try following the tips above in order to help stay healthy throughout the semester. They are preventative steps and good habits that will pay off throughout the term and beyond.