2020 College Resolutions

A New Decade, a Fatter Wallet!

The new year clears the slate for all those 2019 regrets. College students return rested after the holiday break just in time for a fresh semester with new classes and professors. But looming over that shiny optimism is a very real student debt problem; in 2017, students graduating from public four-year universities left with an average $26,900 in debt–and that number keeps rising. While this problem is no doubt daunting and overwhelming for many students, there are some great money saving strategies for the new year.

Ride a Bike!

More and more college campuses are increasing their sustainable transportation options. Ditch the car and opt for a swanky bike helmet instead. Public access to bikes, scooters, and buses is a growing trend. College students can sometimes benefit from free bus passes and other perks. Maintaining a car on campus means parking, gas, insurance, and repairs. Research what transportation options are available near campus. Companies like ZipCar and Uber offer ride-share options for the times when a car is more necessary, like bad weather and heavy groceries.

Pay Attention to Credit Cards.

It’s smart to start building credit, but those credit cards can quickly turn around and bite. Make sure to manage credit card balances and pay off more than is spent each month. Interest rates and late fees can quickly add to the balance, so students should read the fine print before signing up. They should take advantage of travel points and rewards when they can. Using these wisely can pay for a flight home or to a spring break destination.

Find a Part-time Job.

Students are busy no doubt. But a part-time job can help pay for small bills without taking up too much time. Many on-campus jobs work around class schedules and are flexible for exams and study needs. Restaurants and coffee shops often need extra hands. Help conduct research with a paid assistantship. Complete surveys online. Dog-sit. Scoop ice cream. Millennials are masters of the side hustle.

Eat Smart!

Colleges are hot spots for free food–it’s just about knowing how to find it. Attend events offering free food, bring student IDs to restaurants and ask about discounts, and try to save dining out for special occasions.

Above all, understand and prepare for future student debt payments. Use campus resources for free financial planning and budgeting. Calculate future monthly payments (including interest). Mastering these tips will build helpful financial habits to better tackle student loan debt in the future. Take control in 2020!

Spotting a Counterfeit Textbook

Counterfeit textbooks are a growing problem in higher education. The expanding online marketplace parallels an increase in third-party booksellers, increasing the risk of pirated materials. College students and other book buyers must learn to navigate the ever-complicated landscape and avoid purchasing counterfeit copies.

What’s the problem?

Major textbook companies suffer a significant economic impact from counterfeit copies accounting for tens of millions in lost revenue in an already struggling industry. But why should students avoid these fake but cheaper products?, For one thing, buyback companies will quickly spot a counterfeit, so you will not be able to sell used textbooks. Attempting to sell counterfeit textbooks, even by accident, can lead to costly lawsuits for bookstores and compromise individual membership on certain websites, like Amazon. Furthermore, pirated versions lack the quality control required by publishers, leading to typos, low-quality images, and even missing pages which could be a huge hassle for you as you cram for that midterm.

What to look for

So, what should you look for? While a low sticker price may be tempting for strapped college students, if the copy costs far less than identical versions, it is likely a fake; shop around to determine what the average price range is before choosing the cheapest option. Counterfeits tend to possess a number of aesthetic problems such as thin or discolored paper and substandard cover art. Keep an eye out for fuzzy barcodes as well. You can also look for the seal, a new anti counterfeit book standard that allows you to scan a book with your phone to see if it’s legit. Finally, research where the book ships from; fake copies typically move through third-party sellers in China and India.


For many college students, semester textbook requirements pose a financial burden; counterfeiters take advantage of this, and the problem is growing. Students have more and more options to save on textbook purchases, but it requires time and a buyer’s savvy to navigate the market. Make sure to take a little extra time and research the books you’re buying. Is the barcode visible? Is the binding secure? Does the print quality look cheap? Do some research, shop around, and don’t let price be the main factor for your purchase.

The 2019 results are in! College students spent 23% less on textbooks than in the previous year. Once the holiday festivities have ended and the glitter has been swept off the floor, you can start the new semester with even more savings. Make sure to stay on trend, and ring in the new year with these textbook buying tips:

Talk to Professors

College professors have access to resources typical students don’t. Talk to them. See which books on the syllabus have older editions that will suffice for their class. If cost is an issue, ask if they know of other textbook options. Sometimes professors receive copies for free from textbook companies, and they may have one to spare. Be ahead of the curve. When you know your instructors for the next semester, e-mail them ahead of time and get the jump on textbook buying and borrowing before the back-to-school rush.

Rent (but Return!)

Don’t want to buy that French book for a mandatory foreign language course that you’ll never use again? Rent it instead. Renting textbooks can be more affordable than purchasing them. Be sure to read the fine print and be mindful of late fees, however. Missing the due date for textbook returns, even by a few days, can cause them to accumulate serious fines.

Go Online

Renting or purchasing electronic versions of textbooks is often a cheaper alternative for students. Unfortunately, online resources come with their own level of risk. Be mindful of viruses and other forms of malware when digitally downloading textbook files. To avoid problems, make sure to install antivirus software and keep your other software up to date on your computer and other electronic devices.

Visit the Library

The campus library should be the first stop on your textbook buying journey. Check out the library’s online databases for hard copies or digital versions of your textbooks. Often, professors will at least put copies on reserve for in-library use. You can also see if editions of your textbook are available via interlibrary loan.

Buy Used

Used textbooks can save students serious cash. Hit the online hubs and campus bookstores early to find the best deals.


In the past couple of years, some textbook publishing companies have started offering subscription services. College students can pay one affordable semester fee that allows unlimited access to digital course materials, including many textbooks.

Sell Back Last Semester’s Books

Are there any books from last semester lying around your dorm room? You can squeeze a few dollars out of each book you don’t intend to keep. If campus bookstores don’t want your textbooks back, go online. In addition, note if campus bookstores and websites offer guaranteed buy-back options that ensure a specific upfront price for returned products.

Once you’ve lived away from your parents, your old home (and perhaps hometown) feels different. You’ve changed, your friends from high school have probably changed, and you may even find that your bedroom has been converted to a guest room. Things may not be the same as you remember, but you can definitely still enjoy yourself while you’re home for the holidays. Just follow these holiday survival tips.

Expect Rules at Home

You’re used to living by your own rules. You can stay out as late as you want without telling anyone. You can sleep in late, eat cereal for dinner, have friends over until 3 a.m. — the list goes on and on. Now you’re under your parents’ roof again, and they may not be so keen on your new habits. At the very least, they’ll want to know (or try to tell you) what time you’ll be home by.

As tough as it is to relinquish your freedom, remember that your folks get to make the rules in their own home. Talk to them ahead of time. Do they still want you to have a curfew? Do they mind if you eat all the food in the cupboard? Knowing what your parents expect can help you avoid unpleasant surprises during your visit. Also, taking the time to ask about (and follow!) their rules shows them that you’re responsible. Doing chores is another way to win brownie points. Hopefully, in time, they’ll treat you more like an adult.

Be Prepared for Questions

You may be asked a barrage of questions, especially if you have extended family visiting. What do you plan to do when you graduate? Who do you hang out with? Are you seeing anyone? What happened to that last boy you were dating? Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with intrusive questions, but if they do come up, you can redirect the subject to something like the Ultimate Frisbee team you just joined.

Ask About Your Old Bedroom

While some parents like to keep their child’s room the same, even once they’ve grown up and moved away to college, others seem to have long awaited this moment. They now get to finally have a craft or exercise room. This isn’t the type of thing you want to find out the moment you open your old bedroom door. Before you go home, ask about any major changes your family made around the house.

Make Time for Old Friends

One of the best parts of visiting home — aside from the free, homecooked meals — is seeing your friends from high school. It’s a good idea to make plans in advance, especially if any of you work part-time during the holidays. Try not to feel too surprised if you see a noticeable difference in any of your friends. This is a time of change for all of you!

Visiting your family for the holidays can be a bit stressful, but seeing everyone again is worth it. Try following these tips, and it should ease the transition.

College students have much to consider when purchasing textbooks. Should you rent or buy? Should you get your books new or used, in print or digital? Will you keep the textbooks or sell them back to recover some of your costs?

As the traditional campus bookstore evolves into an online marketplace, college students and book buyers must now ask themselves another question: is this book even real? Fake online bookstores and counterfeit books have become a growing concern in the textbook industry. Publishers and major booksellers are cutting ties with these merchants and even pursuing legal action against them. Fake books cost the industry tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, and students also should avoid these pirated products.

Counterfeit books use lower quality materials, are frequently missing pages, and cannot be sold back at the end of the semester. Moreover, some online stores will simply steal students’ money. Buyers must be wary because those hunting for a bargain are getting scammed instead. Some students have reported seeing a flyer on-campus advertising a cheap textbook website. Then, after making textbook purchases with their credit cards, they never receive the books.

Luckily, there are ways to spot the fakes: Thoroughly read all unfamiliar websites; look for the grammar and spelling mistakes or poor organization that tend to indicate a website put together haphazardly to make a quick buck. Check that the address and phone numbers listed for the company are real. Take advantage of search tools such as those on the Better Business Bureau website to find out if there have been complaints filed against the company. Check domain names and read the return policies thoroughly. Also, if possible, read customer reviews and ratings.

As the college textbook industry expands, so do possible scams. Although time and money are often limited resources for college students, it’s imperative that you use due diligence when purchasing your textbooks to avoid future problems.

After months of filling out paperwork, writing essays, gathering test scores, and mailing applications, there’s one more hurdle to your college admissions process: interviews. Colleges and programs that require interviews use them to assess you as an individual and determine if you’re a good fit. You’re likely to get nervous in the days leading up to your interviews, but some preparation can help you build confidence and equip you for success. Follow these tips to nail this leg of the college admission process.


From the clothes you wear to the questions you have about the university, it’s vital that you prepare for the interview. Follow these steps to ensure you’re prepared:

Pick your outfit: Your clothes will help you make a good first impression. They’ll also show that you’re serious about attending the school. Approach the college interview process with the same professionalism that you give to job interviews.

Research the college: Perform additional research beyond what you did when applying to schools. Learn as much as possible about the college to ensure you’re informed during the interview.

Draft some questions: The interview is a chance for the university to determine if you’re a good fit. But it’s also a time for you to decide if you really want to attend. If any questions come to mind during your research, write them down. If you can’t find answers online, ask them of your interviewer. You should also ask any questions that will help you decide if the college is a good fit for you.

Update and Study Your Resume

Next, review your resume. If you have anything to add to it, do so before leaving to visit your colleges. Many interviewers start the conversation by going over your resume or asking that you walk them through it. Be prepared to expand on the points in that document and discuss any achievements that you’re especially proud of or that are particularly relevant to the college or program you’re applying to.


Practice answering some basic questions that you’re likely to encounter during the interview, like “Tell me more about yourself” and “Why are you interested in this college?” You should also practice being polite, smiling, not rambling, and providing answers that highlight your strengths or interest in the university.

Arrive on Time

Arriving late will start your interview off on the wrong foot and make a poor first impression. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive promptly, and look up or ask for directions ahead of the interview. Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early to give a good first impression and give yourself time to gather your thoughts, take a breath, and begin your interview with confidence.

Follow Up

A day or two after your visit, write a thank-you note to reiterate your interest in the university and your appreciation for the interest in you. This is a good practice that will help you stand out from other applicants.

College interviews can be intimidating, but they’re an excellent opportunity to show your strengths and let your personality shine through. Practice the tips above to give the best possible impression and ace your interviews.

The cost of higher education can create barriers for young adults seeking a college degree. Textbooks, for example, pose a significant challenge to a struggling student’s finances. Concerns about these costs have led students and faculty to seek alternative ways to obtain books and other study materials. Free articles online and material from the library are part of the solution. However, purchasing traditional college textbooks remains a centerpiece of academia.

Planned Obsolescence

With teachers often requiring the newest textbooks with the most up-to-date information and add-ons, older editions become obsolete. Therefore, to keep up with reading assignments, students must often either purchase new textbooks outright or look for alternatives. These textbooks often come with a hefty price tag and few options for selling them once a class is completed; therefore, thrift-minded students are often forced to turn to online textbook rental sites to hunt for deals.

Market Consolidation

The merger of college textbook publishers McGraw Hill and Cengage has the higher education community questioning the companies’ motives as well as the consequences for students’ wallets—namely, higher book prices. With a limited number of companies in the textbook market, the McGraw Hill-Cengage merger consolidates power and further limits the opportunities for competitive pricing. McGraw Hill and Cengage claim the merger will expand textbook access and affordability. However, student advocates question the true goals of these industry leaders, especially given the fact that textbook prices actually have been decreasing over the past two decades.

Digital and Rental

McGraw Hill and Cengage have expanded their rental and digital catalogs to increase student options. Costs, however, are still high, and the digital market garners the additional benefit of collecting data on students and their purchasing habits. Even though Cengage offers a subscription service, its collection is too limited to provide all of the titles students need for their coursework. The option of renting books reduces a student’s financial outlay, but it requires that the books are returned at the end of each semester. Moreover, since digital materials cannot be re-sold or shared, the flow of textbooks into the used book market is diminished when students rent their textbooks.

Bottom Line: Not Going to help reduce prices

Students need textbooks and other academic materials to succeed. Despite the claims of McGraw Hill and Cengage about their merger, it does raise serious concerns about students being able to afford the textbooks they need. Although the merger offers some cost-effective options for students, it is likely to drive up prices and undermine the used book industry, which often provides cheaper options for students. In a larger sense, the merger is yet another example of how education has become increasingly commodified.

If you’re a college student struggling to make ends meet, try using your talents and resources to make some extra cash. You may not be able to work full-time, but you might be surprised at the odd jobs that are available. Begin by taking inventory of your special skills. If you’re willing to explore creative options, you’ll discover good financial opportunities.

1. Be a Notetaker
A notetaker is a student who attends a classroom course and takes notes for another student who has accommodation for illness or disabilities. By law, colleges and universities must provide notetakers for students who have a registered learning disability. While being a notetaker, you can help students in need and enhance your own academic skills. Visit the accessibility resources office on your campus to offer your services.

2. Look for an On-Campus Job
An on-campus job is an ideal choice for a consistent influx of cash. Visit your financial aid or career services offices to inquire about job openings. On-campus jobs can accommodate your schedule and you may even be able to study while you work.

3. Get Paid to Help Others
If you excel in a particular subject, share your expertise with students who are struggling. Advertise your services on social media or talk to a professor about tutoring jobs that may be offered by an academic department.

4. Become a Merchandiser
Consider selling some of your clothes or used textbooks to make a few extra bucks. Local secondhand and consignment stores are often willing to buy gently used clothing. If you enjoy shopping, go to garage sales and thrift stores to look for hidden gems that you can buy and sell to make some extra cash. Rare books, antiques, and other collectibles can be sold online.

5. Use Your Domestic Skills

Use your free time to babysit, pet sit, or house sit as a flexible, part-time job. House cleaning, yard work, and snow shoveling can be worked into a busy college schedule. You can advertise online to find clients.

6. Hit the Road
If you have a car, consider working as a driver for people who need a ride. Join an organized rideshare service or create your own system to connect with potential customers. You can also deliver food or other goods for local retailers.

7. Become a Translator
If you speak a language other than English, become a translator. You can find translation jobs online. Contact local medical or social service agencies to offer your translation services for their patients and clients.

8. Become a Transcriber
College is the ideal environment to find work as a transcriber. Strong keyboarding skills are a necessity for this work. Contact academic departments to offer your services, or market your services online.

9. Donate Plasma
If you’re in good health and don’t mind needles, earn some extra money donating plasma. A component of blood, plasma is most often needed to treat accident or burn victims and people with diseases. Plasma donation centers offer cash and incentives to regular donors.

10. Apply for Scholarships
Spend some of your free time applying for college scholarships. You may discover special scholarships at your college that are available to students who are admitted into specific majors, for example. If you’re involved in campus or community activities, look for scholarships that will reward you for student involvement.

Completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is an essential step in securing state and federal financial aid for your college education. Here’s everything you need to know before filling out this important document.

Submitting Your FAFSA Form is Free

Submitting your FAFSA form is always free via the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA website. Beware of unscrupulous websites charging fees for submitting this form. These sites simply prey on students that don’t know better. They do not offer a premium service, despite their claims.

You Should Create Your FSA ID Early

You’ll need a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to log in to various U.S. Department of Education websites and to complete your FAFSA form. If you are still dependent on your parents, either your mom or dad needs his or her own FSA ID, too. Creating FSA IDs via the Student Aid website is simple, but delays can hold up the process. In some cases, you might need to wait three days before using your new FSA ID. That’s why experts recommend creating your FSA ID as soon as possible, even before you’re ready to complete your FAFSA form.

Also note that you must create your own FSA ID. If a parent needs one, he or she must also create his or her own. It’s illegal for anyone to make an FSA ID on someone else’s behalf.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool Can Reduce Human Error and Save Time

State and federal bodies consider your last tax figures when determining your aid eligibility. Inputting relevant details from your last tax return can be tedious and time-consuming. A data retrieval tool from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can prefill tax information to your FAFSA form. This will save you around 30 minutes and ensure accuracy. New increased security and privacy protections help you use the tool with confidence.

Anyone who’s filed taxes electronically within the last three weeks or by mail within the last 11 weeks can use the IRS data retrieval tool. Simply click the “Link to IRS” button, which displays in the FAFSA form after clicking the “View option to link to the IRS” hyperlink.

You Should Complete Your FAFSA Form as Soon as Possible

With a final deadline of June 30, 2020 for the 2019–2020 financial year, you might think there’s plenty of time to get your FAFSA form in. However, submitting your form as soon as it’s available on October 1 can really pay off. Many states and colleges have much earlier deadlines for some financial awards. For example, to qualify for aid in Tennessee, your FAFSA form must be submitted by mid-January.

At least 12 American states also allocate grants on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, if you procrastinate completing your FAFSA form, there might be nothing left. Scholarships and grants, which don’t need to be repaid as loans do, usually have earlier cutoffs than the national deadlines.

All students seeking financial aid must complete a FAFSA form. Make sure you understand this document and what it takes to complete it to give yourself the best chance of securing state or federal financial aid.

The college experience can be exciting and fun, especially when you’re making friends and enjoying on-campus activities. But the daily grind of classes, schoolwork, and studying may cause you to feel a bit tired, stressed, or overwhelmed at times. Take time to care for yourself throughout the semester with these college student self-care tips.

1. Enjoy Some Alone Time

College is filled with classes and social engagements that keep you around other students for most of the day. And if you live with roommates, private moments may be especially rare. Enjoy some time to yourself so you can recharge after a busy day or week. Find a quiet spot in the library, go for a walk across campus, or fly solo to see a movie at the theater. Use the time alone to relax and think without the frequent distractions of college life.

2. Prioritize Your Sleep Schedule

College students often stay up late studying or spending time with friends. While those late nights can provide some important test prep or turn into cherished memories, it’s not a good idea to do it all the time. Getting enough sleep is vital to your health, energy levels, and mood. Plus, a good night’s sleep helps you to learn and retain new information and boost your memory, all of which is very important when you’re in class or studying every day.

Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep most nights of the week. Establish a bedtime routine where you take a warm shower, read a book, listen to a podcast, or meditate before dozing off. These relaxing activities can help you rest more soundly and stick to a healthy sleep schedule.

3. Make Time for Exercise

Working out is one of the best methods of self-care, but it can be hard for some college students to find the motivation to do it. Even if you have a busy schedule, however, it’s important to fit in some physical activity at least a few times a week. Regular exercise can improve your mood and boost your energy. It even helps you enjoy deeper sleep at night (as long as you don’t exercise too close to bedtime). Consider trying one or more of these workouts for college students:

Take a workout class at the on-campus gym.
Join an intramural sports team.
Go for a run across campus.
Follow YouTube exercise videos at home.
Get a friend to be your workout buddy.

4. Talk It Out

When you’re feeling stressed, it can help to talk about what’s going through your mind. Meet up with a friend and chat about how you’re feeling. Call up a parent or sibling for support. If you’re a private person, it may help just to write out your feelings in a journal.

Don’t hesitate to take advantage of your school’s mental health services as well. Most universities and colleges have health centers where you can schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist. These professionals can help you talk through any challenges you’re facing and provide useful strategies for overcoming them.

Don’t let stress get to you this semester. Instead, use these tips to take time to care for yourself.