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Going, Going, Gone…Abroad!

July 18, 2016

If you’re in college, you’ve probably heard a lot about study abroad. Going abroad means being able to study in a foreign country (and sometimes in a different language) while also having the opportunity to travel, meet new people from around the world and explore a new culture. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend some time outside of your everyday college campus–there are study abroad programs across the globe. Even if your college or university does not offer a study abroad program in a place you’d like to see, there’s a high probability that another school does.

Through study abroad, you have the chance to live in places you may never have considered before–I know people who have studied in England, South Africa, Morocco, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Kenya, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and other amazing countries! The options truly are endless. I decided to go to Madrid, Spain for my study abroad period last spring. I perfected my Spanish through three language and literature classes, a home stay with a Spanish family and an internship at a sports marketing agency in the city. I also learned about the history and culture that makes Spain such a wonderful country. It was an eye-opening, life-changing experience!

Going abroad is becoming more and more common among college students. Every year, over 350,000 American students pack up their suitcases and study abroad. In the last decade, study abroad participation has seen a 130% increase in American college students. While close to 40% of students chose to go during their junior year, most schools offer programs open to sophomores and up. Surprisingly, only 6.2% of study abroad students go for a foreign language. No matter what your major is, there’s a chance to get out and see the world!

If you’re considering study abroad, make sure to look up programs at your school, as well as other universities. Take time to research a program you’re truly interested in–one you know that will challenge and change you. If you’re already going abroad, make sure to think ahead with regard to visas, plane tickets and travel insurance. Don’t leave any important paperwork until the last minute!

How to Prepare for Studying Abroad

If you are studying abroad this upcoming semester, you’ve (hopefully!) done your research and gotten all your paper work ready, but there are still plenty of things to do. Before traveling abroad, here’s a fun checklist for what you should do and bring before you board that plane!

  • Pack light. Most likely you’ll be traveling alone or with others who are also studying abroad, therefore, you’re the only one who will be carrying your stuff. In many cultures outside of the US, there is not as much of an emphasis on “new” and “excess” – it’s okay to wear the same outfit more than once. Pack only what you’ll need while you’re away and things that can be used for multiple purposes – your favorite outfits, comfortable shoes, exercise clothes that can double as pajamas, and one dressed up outfit. Your wardrobe will vary greatly depending on where you are going, but remember to pack smart. When you’re away, you’ll find yourself gravitating to only a fraction of what you bring with you – eliminate the wasted space. For me, being in a foreign culture meant I gravitated toward my favorite outfits time and time again since those are what I felt most comfortable in while adjusting to new surroundings.
  • Bring mementos from home. I know, I said pack light, but you should bring with you some photographs of family and friends as well as a few souvenirs for the friends you meet abroad. You WILL go through at least some culture shock and having reminders of home and the people you left at home will help you feel less lonely during the initial shock phase.
  • Expect a period of culture shock. When studying abroad and living abroad for a few months, culture shock is unavoidable. Many studies and articles portray culture shock as a bell curve – at first it is fun and exciting, then you assimilate more and realize the differences and barriers in culture and become lonely, and finally you adjust, understanding and appreciating the differences in culture and recapturing the excitement of being abroad. While you will experience loneliness, make sure to put yourself out there, make new friends and beat that loneliness! You will come through it.
  • Get out there! For many, you will only study abroad or even live abroad once, so take advantage! If you can travel, travel. If you can make new friends from your host country, make those friends! Try new cuisines and activities, spend time getting to know your host family, and visit every tourist trap and museum. Get to know your city, get to know the locals and take it all in! Experiencing the new culture around you is just as much a learning experience as the classes you’ll take abroad – so do your homework!
  • Be safe. Do your research before you go to make sure you know of any dangerous areas in your city, crime problems, or health advisories in the area in which you will be studying. The Students Abroad site by the Department of Consular Affairs is a great resource:http://studentsabroad.state.gov/index.php. Learn how to best manage an emergency situation abroad, more about local laws and they have an awesome handy-dandy packing guide. It never hurts to be prepared!

But perhaps most importantly, have fun and stay safe this semester!

Health Other

You’re Responsible for your Health in College

July 11, 2016

College can be some of the best years of your life. You get to try new things, meet new people, and most of all, eat whenever you want! For some, the meal plan going into freshman year might be the biggest highlight of going to college. No longer will you have to depend on your family’s schedule and food preferences. Instead, you’ll now be able to go to your local campus hot spot and be fully in control over what you want to eat.

Cereal for dinner? Go for it! Hamburgers and pizza for breakfast? Why not?

Along with these new freedoms to eat what you want, when you want, comes the responsibility of keeping yourself healthy.

That breakfast pizza? It could cause you to experience what we all know as the Freshman 15.

You're responsible for your health in college... here are some good habits to get into.

 

Eating healthy is definitely an important part of the equation for staying healthy and fit in college. It’s important to make sure that your dietary decisions take into consideration your overall activity level and the way your body deals with certain types of food. For example: if eating fries results in you feeling greasy or bloated, only indulge once in a while, rather than making a habit of it.

For more ways to eat better at school, check out this guide about how to beat the Freshman 15.

Another important component to feeling your best is exercising and being active. In order to establish and maintain good exercise habits, start with just 30-45 minutes a day. Being in college gives you considerable free time. Although some of your time will already be spoken for (class, studying, hanging out with friends), carving out under an hour per day to stay healthy will have you thanking yourself in the coming weeks, months and even years!

A simple way to increase exercise may be by walking to class. You don’t always need to take the bus or shuttle… instead, get a friend to tag along and take the long route to class on foot. Another way is to ride your bike to class or even to take a bike ride off campus to explore the area around your school. And on days you’re crunched for time, you can multitask and do your reading for class while riding a stationary bike at the gym.

Need more ideas to help you get your daily exercise in? Check out this guide to exercising in college!

Other Transition

What to do With Graduation Money

June 24, 2016

Many graduates get a nice stack of cash shortly after graduation. Whether it’s from your family or friends, it is very important to know how to manage this money. Often, recent graduates tend to blow most of the money at their first opportunity. This is exactly the opposite of what you should do!

If you can’t help yourself and you are just dying to go out and spend some of the money, set aside 10% for spending and keep the rest in your bank account. Ethan Ewing, president of bills.com, warns that “cash in hand can be a pretty dangerous thing.”  Ewing is right, when you carry around a large amount of your money, you are much more likely to spend it!  So take that 10% and have a good time, but make sure you keep the rest untouched!

Some other, more beneficial, options you may consider are provided by Claudia Buck, a writer for The Sarcamento Bee. Getting rid of debt is always a great option. Most graduates today are graduating with thousands in credit card debt in addition to their school loans. Reward your future self by cutting down your debt.

If you don’t want to lose all your money, you should consider saving.  It is always a good idea to save money so consider dropping the money into a savings account or short term cd.

Open an IRA or Roth to help plan for the future. Although these options are long term, they are great ways to put away money and gain interest.

Do you have an emergency fund? No? Well, no better time to start than now! Setting aside money in case of emergencies is always a great way to ensure you will be ok if something sudden comes up.

Professional attire.  If you are going to spend your money, spend it wisely, and invest in attire that will help you in the future.  You do not want to go into interviews looking disheveled and unprepared; you need to stand out in a good way. If you must spend some of that money, invest in some professional attire to help you look and feel more presentable in interviews.

Insurance anyone? This is the best opportunity to get started on a insurance plan. You already have money saved up to pay for premiums in case you don’t find a job.  You definitely don’t have enough to afford medical bills though. Weigh your risks, anyone can get sick! Consider a short-term plan if you are confident you will have a job.  They are offered up to 12 months and provide great gap insurance!

Career Other Student Life

Reducing College Costs

June 21, 2016

College is expensive and college costs continue to climb every year but there are ways to help manage the rising costs.

  1. Apply for financial aid – even if you think your family earns too much money to qualify, send in the forms.
  2. Look for scholarships – scholarships are available to students that aren’t based on need.
  3. Apply for loans – many student loans do not require payments until schooling has been completed.
  4. Apply for grants – Grants give students money that does not have to be paid back after graduation.
  5. The Federal Student Work Program provides jobs to students.  These jobs often relate to their field of study, allowing students to get real world experience.
  6. Look for jobs through your academic institution.  Some schools offer jobs that come with tuition discounts and wages.
  7. Programs such as AmeriCorps, Vista, the ROTC and the Peace Corps will help pay off student loans or provide funds during college in exchange for a service commitment upon graduation.
  8. Tax breaks on 529 plans and larger deductions also are available.
  9. Take the first two years at a community college. Pick one that has an articulation agreement with a four-year university. It’s quite common and specifies which community-college credits will be accepted toward a bachelor’s degree at the four-year institution.
  10. If attending a four year college, take summer school at a community college near home.
  11. Get college credit early. Many high schools offer college-level classes to prepare for Advance Placement exams.

Paying for the basics

  1. The cheapest living is living at home with mom and dad, if you can.
  2. If you are planning on or required to live on or near campus, don’t buy the most expensive meal plan if you are not going to use it.
  3. Furnish your room with great finds from thrift shop rather then new decor.
  4. Be a resident assistant.  This job is typically open to undergraduate students and provides students with discounts on room and board.
  5. Ask your family to buy a home.  It may seem like a crazy idea but renting out other rooms can offset monthly mortgage payments.
  6. Paying for textbooks often costs college students nearly a $1000 a year.
    1. Purchasing books online using sites like Craigslist.com, Half.com, and College Book Swap can help with the high costs of books.
    2. Avoid purchasing books when they are priced the highest, August, September, January and February.
    3. Purchase ebooks, ebooks are generally much lower in price and provide students access to the same information.
    4. Look for free books, one company, Freeload Press, provides some electronic texts free of charge.
    5. Consider international editions of books, some international texts are cheaper then US versions but contain the same content.
    6. Share books with other students or use a library copy.
    7. Resell your books when you are through.

College students typically have a small budget so maintain it well.  Little things add up quickly.

  1. Having a car can be a major expense if you are paying the bill.  If it is possible for you to walk or take the bus, do so.
  2. Compare cell phone plans, some carriers offer special discounts to students to help generate business.  Take advantage of these deals!
  3. Shop around for your computer.  It is hard to get through school without a computer but you can find great deals on computers if you shop around and compare prices.
  4. Find out if you are being charged for health care coverage from the academic institution, it may be duplicating the coverage you are already receiving from your parents.
  5. Stay on track in school, by graduating in four years or less, you can avoid any additional debt.

All of the tips and information above was provided by First Tax Solution LLC.

Health Other

What College Graduates Need to Know About Health Insurance

May 18, 2016

For recent college graduates, this is a very exciting time. You’ve just left school, possibly moved out of your parents’ house, and are starting to figure things out for yourselves. Some people this age tend to think that they don’t need health insurance because they are young and healthy, but the truth is that having health insurance is a very good idea, especially for this age group.

Young people are often accident prone, and the financial risk of going without health insurance is high. The out-of-pocket cost of accidents can be staggering.

So, if you’re graduating from school, it’s important to figure out if an insurance plan is right for you. Luckily, graduates have several different options. Because of this, make sure you always speak to an agent when deciding. An insurance agent’s job is to advise and sell insurance to customers, so they will help you to figure out what works best for you. Whatever situation you may be in after graduation, there’s a solution for you:

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Career Other

GradGuard Renters Insurance featured in the Daily Bruin!

August 31, 2015

GradGuard has been featured in the Daily Bruin, the daily student newspaper of UCLA.  The headline is important and could be something that more schools adopt as a valuable feature of student housing.

UCLA Housing recommends students buy

renters insurance

We have partnered with UCLA to offer students Renters Insurance coverage, and are happy to read that both college students and the institution find GradGuard Renters Insurance protection valuable.

“This is the first year Housing has suggested a specific company for students to buy insurance from, said Sarah Quinn, director of Housing. Quinn said the UC Office of the President took up the initiative to decrease students’ personal liability.

Quinn said officials chose GradGuard because it offers more benefits tailored for college students than generic insurance companies do. Quinn added GradGuard covers residents under 18 without requiring their parents’ approval and allows students to switch housing during the school year without compromising their coverage. Quinn also said the UCOP did not recommended a specific company to purchase renters insurance from in the past because officials first had to find one which catered to students’ needs at all 10 campuses.

Housing representatives across the University of California system are urging all incoming university residents to purchase GradGuard renters insurance for the 2015-2016 school year to prevent personal liability, although coverage is optional.

UCLA Housing is offering students renters insurance from GradGuard for about $185 per academic year. The insurance is designed to provide coverage for personal items such as laptops that are stolen and to offer financial protection for students who unintentionally damage their dorm.

Read the full article in the Daily Bruin.

Other

Social Media: How to Block it Out to Get Stuff Done

February 4, 2013

Laptop Trackpad

We can all agree that in this day and age, the technology we have is nothing short of amazing. Not to mention useful, indispensable, unbelievable, and a thousand other adjectives.

And social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and more are just as phenomenal and groundbreaking. Finally there is an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends you don’t often get to see in person, share your thoughts, pictures, and favorite things, and often even start new relationships with people in different cities or countries.

But often times, social media can get in the way of other things, like school work, real life friendships, and sleep. It’s hard to be productive when you turn on your computer to type an essay and are immediately bombarded with notifications, chat messages, and the compulsion to check every account you own. And suddenly just a quick peek at your new feed becomes hours spent in the online wasteland of hashtags and trending topics.

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Other

5 Sneaky Things That Could Be Draining Your Bank Account

January 28, 2013

As college students, most of whom aren’t independently wealthy, the last thing we need are useless things draining our funds. But you might be surprised at the things that you don’t really need to be paying money for! Here we break down five things that could be draining your bank account.

1. ATM fees. You probably know that if you use an ATM that your bank doesn’t own to get cash out of your account, you could be incurring fees of up to $3 a pop. While that may not seem like much, it adds up after a while, especially when tacked onto the money you’re already withdrawing. For some of us, however, it may not be much of a choice if there isn’t a branch of our bank near campus. An easy fix for this problem is to simply ask for cash back when purchasing something at any store. That way you can leave any unnecessary fees behind you!

2. Bottled water. We know what you’re thinking – water?! How could that be an unnecessary cost, I need it to live! But think about it: you’re paying upwards of $2 or $3 several times a week for something that ought to be free! Even if the taps in your dorm or apartment aren’t exactly drinking friendly, it’s more than likely that there are several drinking fountains on your school’s campus where you could fill up a reusable water bottle (you probably have one from your school that they gave you for free at some point – I have at least four!) and have a thirst quenching beverage for next to nothing. Plus, it’s more eco-friendly!

3. Your daily coffee/energy drink habit. I know, I know, you can’t function without your caffeine. But have you ever done the math on how much that little habit is costing you per month? What about per year? And we won’t even get into how bad it is for your health! Assuming that each drink is around $4, by cutting your consumption from five times a week down to three, you could be saving nearly $40 a month. That’s almost $500 per year! Let that one sink in for a moment.

4. Vending machines. A lot of these money drains seem to revolve around food and drink! If you go down to the vending machine or run to the gas station or convenience store every time you’re hungry, you’re going to end up way overpaying. Instead, you should go to the local grocery store or supermarket and buy multiple serving snacks, in bulk size. That way you’re getting a better deal per serving and paying less money less often (plus you’re more apt to buy healthier snacks).

5. Parking meters. Yes, sometimes these are necessary evils, but when you do the math, in the long run, it might make more sense (or cents?) to purchase a parking pass for your school. While it may seem like a large expense at one time, breaking it down will reveal that it’s more cost efficient to just spend the money upfront, instead of pumping in gallons of quarters each day.

 

Be sure to check out GradGuard for all of your life and college hacks!

Other

5 Things to Bring Back for Spring Semester

January 9, 2013

Jogger on central campus

Students all over the globe are preparing to head back to school for their spring semester. This means rounding up all of your clothes, gifts, and belongings that ended up spreading out all over your house on break and hauling the mess back to your dorm or apartment. In all the confusion and disarray, though, there are 5 items you should remember to load in your car at all costs!

1. Climate appropriate clothing. Many regions throughout the country are now entering the doldrums of winter, where it is getting much colder, nastier, and more dreary. If you hadn’t already brought up more cold weather items, you may want to consider doing so. Now is the time for hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters, and puffy jackets. However, another thing to think about is the imminent arrival of springtime in many places. Depending on where you live, it could start getting warmer and warmer in a month or two. If you don’t get to go home very often, you may want to think about bringing some warm weather clothing options with you too. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in a parka and furry boots on the first 65 degree day of the year!

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5 Ways to Make Money on Break

January 3, 2013

Shoveling snow.
Final projects have been turned in, grades are being anxiously anticipated, and exam week is over at long last. Now, all the college students will be making their way home to spend a glorious few weeks devoid of anything resembling school work or responsibility. For many, it might begin to fall into the realm of boredom. So, if you find that you’ve got a little – or a lot – of extra time on your hands over break, and could use a bit of extra money (who couldn’t?) try these great ideas for making some quick cash over your winter break.

1. Shovel snow. Manual labor may not be the most exciting thing that anyone’s ever done, but you can’t deny, it’s effective. Around the holidays, people are busy enough without having to worry about the pesky weather getting in their way. So, offer to shovel people’s driveways and sidewalks in your neighborhood. Chances are, they’ll be more than receptive if you charge a fair amount and do a thorough job.

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