All Posts By

Brie Bell

Student Life

7 Ways to Start a New Semester Off Right

January 14, 2022

The start of a new semester tends to come with a lot on the to-do list. Don’t let that put you off! Knowing how to kick-start a new term can really impact all aspects of your time at school. Whether it’s your first semester or your last, preparing yourself to begin the new term is important so you can be successful. 

Check out this list with the top 7 ways to help you start this semester off on the right foot.

1. Staying organized is key

Getting organized and staying organized can be hard, but it can help your course work, as well as your workflow at the start of a new semester, and will have tremendous benefits to your stress levels. There are many amazing online organization tools and apps such as Goodnotes, MyHomework, Google Workspace or even a physical calendar that can keep all of your assignments and notes in one place. You can file your work into separate folders based on the class or sections, color-coding, and highlighting the most important stuff. With so many classes being online or hybrid, many professors are using slideshows during lectures. You should get in a habit of asking them to send you a copy so you can look back while studying. It may also be posted online where you submit assignments. Also, staying on top of your calendar and updating it with due dates and important events will help you to stay ahead of schedule. Being organized with your time and schedule will keep you on task so you don’t procrastinate.

Pro Tip: Scan any important paper documents or notes to an online folder for later. This will help you avoid having to dig through mountains of notes and random sheets of paper again. 

2. Making campus your home away from home

At the start of a new semester, most students will be either returning to campus or are heading there for the very first time. Either way, this new address, new roommate, or new city will be your home away from home. At first, this can seem pretty overwhelming but you can bet everyone is as nervous as you when heading to campus. As you build friendships and get deeper into your course work, heading back to campus will feel like putting on your favorite comfy sweatshirt. It will feel natural and familiar after a while. You will probably even miss it while you are away!

Pro Tip: Bring something that reminds you of home to have if you get homesick!

3. Stay informed about what’s happening on campus

With college comes a whole lot of terms you’ve never heard of before, such as enrollment, course catalog, exam registration, and withdrawals.

It can be pretty daunting when:

a) You’re not really sure what you’re supposed to do,

b) Where you need to be,

c) And when you should be doing it.

One thing that can save you the added stress of college life is downloading any available calendars or information from your university’s or college’s website before the new semester starts. It could be mid-terms or finals schedules and the campus map, or even looking up groups or clubs on social media so you can connect with other students at your school about classes, lectures, and registration times.

Pro Tip: Note your drop, withdraw, and refund policies before classes start. Consider purchasing GradGuard’s Tuition Insurance to provide a reimbursement should you withdraw for a covered illness or injury at any time during the semester.

4. Keep Your Student ID With You at All Times

At last, a shiny new student card with your name and photo all over it! It’s proof that you’re now a member of your dream school. Not only will your student ID be your badge to get access to your dorm, campus buildings, and the library, it is also how you may pay for meals and snacks in the student union. Some classes even use your student ID card or your student number for attendance. You’ll get your card once you’ve enrolled and it’ll stay with you until your time at university is over. Just try not to lose it or get it stolen. If it is however,  you can check with your student services to get a replacement card, though it will cost you some money.

Pro Tip: Did you know your student ID can also save you money? Check out student discounts on stuff such as entertainment, event tickets, tech, clothing and more!

5. Books, Books, and, YES, more Books!

Do college classes even require textbooks anymore? Yes, they actually do and many online ones require them as well! Course books and other reading material will be your lifeline during your time in college. You can stay one step ahead of any stress by purchasing your books a few weeks before your new semester starts. Textbooks are not all created equal and some can be quite costly, so be on the lookout for what you need at a second-hand bookstore or in the used section. Some classes will require that you purchase a digital version of the book or an online access code. Unfortunately, these can not be usually be purchased secondhand and are often some of the most expensive materials needed for class.

Pro Tip: Before you buy a new or even used book, see if the bookstore allows rentals. Many times, you can rent these for a fraction of the purchase price AND you can still highlight and take notes. Win-win!

6. Managing your time

Life in college can be vastly different than anything in your life up to this point. The rigid structure of high school and bell schedules is long gone. From managing your personal time to sleep, do chores, and hangout with friends, to going to class, studying, and doing other assignments, it can be hard not to get overwhelmed!

If you’re able to master the art of managing your time for studying, work, and your personal life early on in the semester you will feel better come the end of the semester and things get even more crazy. Dedicating the right amount of time to your education, work commitments, socializing, and of course, just for yourself is critical and will ensure you get the most out of each. Sure, your student years will involve social events with your friends, but at the end of the day it’s all about balance. Tipping the scales too far to one side can have dramatic effects on the other. Try a few different things to find what works for you to make sure that you are leaving enough time for all the important things in you life, but sometimes you might just have to say “no”.

Pro Tip: Try to pick your classes on block days so other days are left open for studying, a part-time job, or fun stuff. For example, look for classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only, leaving you able to do other things on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

7. Remember to have fun!

You’ve probably heard it a million times before, but your time in college will turn out to be some of the best years of your life. Of course, there are exams, essays, and lots of homework, but studying and diving deep into a major you love will turn out to be so much better than you thought. Knowledge is power and can open so many doors for you in the future, so soak it up while you can! You’ll meet people from all walks of life so make time to network straight away, join extracurricular activities, and share your passions with the others around you.

Adulting Student Life

Preparing to Buy a New Car

January 6, 2022

Buying a new car can be a very exciting experience, but there are a few things you must consider to prepare for the responsibility you are taking on. Here is a list of factors to consider when looking for a new vehicle:

  • New VS. Used
  • Auto Insurance
  • Payment

New VS. Used

Even though driving a car right off the lot with zero miles and that amazing new car smell is thrilling, a used vehicle that has time left on the factory warranty can be just as reliable and more affordable for a student than a new car. New cars have the appeal of never having a previous owner and can have all the features and new technology available with a warranty in case something were to happen. They can also be very expensive with a higher payment and cost more to insure. If you opt for a used car, it may not have every feature that you want, but it will cost less to insure, you might not have a car payment, and they can hold their value longer.

Insurance

When looking at possible cars you may want to purchase, consider how much the monthly payment will be with insurance.  It is illegal to drive without auto insurance so this factor should also be included in your estimated monthly payment.  It may be nice to own your dream car but owning sports models and SUV’s often cost more.  Economy cars are often the most reasonable choice for students living on a limited budget.  With that being said, used cars are also a great option.  Buying used cars give students a bigger selection of vehicles to choose from without exceeding a reasonable monthly payment.

Payment for Purchasing a Car

Although it would be nice to have the money up-front, students often take out a loan to help manage their car payments.  If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you look into multiple lenders before making your final decision.  The internet is a great place to search lenders and compare rates of interest.  Be sure to note if the lender requires a co-signer or a guarantor, more often than not that can just be a parent or legal guardian who is of age.  Some lenders may provide lower rates of interest if you are able to obtain a co-signer.  The interest rate, terms and conditions and the repayment amount are the three main factors to negotiate with each potential lender.  It may vary lender to lender but the details of your loan are often directly related to your FICO score, also known as your credit score.

A major issue students run into is improper financial planning.  Before getting a loan, make sure you prepare for your repayment plan.  It is important that you figure out how many installments you can afford to pay and at what value those installments can be.  If you are forced to pay late on your payments or you default on your repayment plan, your credit history will be damaged and your FICO score will lower.  By planning ahead, you can make regular payments that can help increase your FICO score.

By preparing for your loan before contacting a credit facility, you will increase your chances of approval because you will appear to be more reliable.  As always, make sure you do your homework before agreeing to a financial contract!

Buying a new car, or even your first car, is very exciting. Be sure to do your homework and your research when deciding which vehicle is best for you.

Adulting Transition

A College Student’s Guide to Car Insurance

December 10, 2021

When you leave home for the first time and head off to college, oftentimes you are faced with new challenges. Car insurance may be one of them, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve done the research for you so you know what top three things to keep in mind when it comes to car insurance for college students. 

Avoid High Rates for Inexperienced Drivers

Rates are a large contributing factor when deciding which company to get coverage through. Your parents may think to remove you from their policy while you are away from college because you may not have a vehicle on campus with you. But something to keep in mind when you are looking for coverage is that adults ages 18-25 have rates almost $4,000 over the national average because they are considered high-risk drivers. 

Having your own insurance policy can be more expensive for students and if your parents decide to remove you from their policy. It may also result in you having a gap in coverage that will most likely increase your premium when you do acquire car insurance down the line. Talk to your parents or their current insurance provider to find out what option is best for you. 

Keeping Your Premium Low 

Although discounts are great, they aren’t guaranteed with every insurance company. After age 25 once many people have gained more experience driving, car insurance rates start to drop. The best way to ensure you can benefit from those rate decreases is by practicing safe driving habits while you are still young to be eligible for a good driver discount. Some providers have devices or apps to use while driving that track your good driving habits and offer steep discounts for regular use.

Now that you have shown the car insurance company that you’re a safe, responsible driver, you may be tempted to buy a luxury vehicle. Because expensive cars are more costly to repair in the event of an accident, they can be difficult to insure and have a much higher premium. If you want to keep your insurance cost down, buying a fancy car isn’t the way to go. Stick to something reliable, and maybe even slightly used, to keep more money in your wallet. 

Student Discounts

When you are looking for a policy that fits your needs, you will want to inquire about any discounts they may offer. You may have heard about a good student discount which can take anywhere from 10 to 15% off your premium, however you will need to reach out to your provider to find out exactly what they offer. In addition to just being enrolled as a student, they may provide some additional discounts such as:

  • Good grades: Depending on your insurance company, the qualifications may be different such as needing all A’s or simply a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • High standardized test scores: Show your insurance company your test scores on the SAT, ACT, or PSAT.
  • An administrator signed letter supporting your academic successes
  • Making the Dean’s list
  • Having your Associate degree or Bachelor’s degree
  • Military discount: Active duty or veteran 
  • Being a sorority, fraternity, and honors society member
  • University and alumni discounts

You will likely need to provide proof to your insurance companies to qualify for these discounts.  These discounts can still apply either on your own policy or if you are still covered under a parent’s policy.

Bonus: Distant college student discount

Here is another great reason to stay on your parent’s policy while in college: If you attend college out of state, they may be eligible for a discount!

It is called the “distant college student discount” or “the student away at school discount.” You may be able to receive this offer if you attend a university that is over 100 miles away from your parents home and you don’t have a vehicle of your own. 

The only catch: you must be away at college and cannot have a car with you for your parents to receive this discount.

Final Thoughts

One of the most important things to keep in mind while weighing your car insurance options is to shop around. Whether you have your own policy or you stay on a parent’s, get quotes and pricing options from other companies to see if you are able to get the same exact coverage for less. Some companies offer better rates based on if you pay directly through your bank account or annually, rather than monthly. Shop around and make it a challenge with yourself to find the best rate for you!