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Adulting Student Life

Budgeting 101 For College Students

December 10, 2020

If you’re like many other college students, the idea of budgeting may seem a little difficult to think about. Some students are easily able to get the things they need throughout their time in college, while others may be restricted to tight budgets or wonder how they will ever make it through.

Here are a few suggestions for those who are looking for budget-friendly ways to navigate through college that may even save a few dollars along the way.

Determine your needs versus wants 

Part of being financially responsible and developing money-conscious habits is knowing the difference between your wants and your needs. It’s human nature to want to have the best of the best — whether it’s clothes, shoes, or the newest tech gadgets. Although it is nice to have finer things, as a college student you will soon realize that these may be things you really want but don’t need. You might also find that eating out and socializing with friends can add up quickly. If you have an income through a part-time job or paid internship, you could probably afford to set aside some “fun money” so you can treat yourself within reason!

Plan and write out your expenses

Growing up, you may have seen your parents making a list of bills or other things they need to prioritize in the near future. This is an excellent habit to start on your own as a college student and use once you have started your career as well. As often as you need to, take a look at your most common expenses and bills and write them down. Have a description of what they are and how much you will need to pay for them. By doing this, you’ll be able to see what needs to be taken care of before you can put money away for savings or splurge. A budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget may also be helpful. 

Use discounts and free services as often as you can 

We can all appreciate discounts and free stuff! As a college student, you should always be on the lookout for good deals! This video shares some student benefits you might not know about. You might be surprised how far your student ID could take you — from free tickets to sporting events, to discounts on memberships and subscriptions, and even exclusive deals on laptops and electronics. Sign up for sites like Student Beans and UNiDAYS to start saving.

Creating good money habits in college will benefit you long after graduation day. Happy budgeting!

Student Life

Testimonial: Tuition Insurance Can Give You a Do Over for College

December 8, 2020

Most colleges and universities don’t provide full refunds for tuition and academic fees. It’s something many students and families don’t find out about until after it’s too late, and their investment in college is lost. That’s how GradGuard’s Tuition Insurance can help in the event of an unexpected medical withdrawal.

Kara first learned about GradGuard’s Tuition Insurance when her son, Andrew, was an incoming freshman at Marist College. She said she wanted to make sure that if anything were to happen that was one of the covered reasons, their big investment in his education wouldn’t be lost. Marist is one of the nearly 400 colleges and universities that rely on GradGuard to protect students from preventable financial losses.

College students and families are smart to have GradGuard

Looking ahead, Kara and Andrew’s decision to purchase tuition insurance was smart. She said her son struggled a little bit the first semester.

“When he went back in the beginning of the spring semester, it became clear that he was not going to be successful, for a variety of mental health issues,” Kara said. “Our first priority was to bring him home, which we did.”

Andrew completed a medical withdraw from school. It was early in the semester, so the family was able to get a partial refund from the school. Then they contacted GradGuard and filed a claim for the balance.

GradGuard provides a refund when schools may not

“The amount that we paid at the beginning of the semester, minus what the school refunded — we got every other cent back from GradGuard,” Kara said. “We were thrilled. That money is for him to pursue his education when he’s ready.”

GradGuard was able to give this family the opportunity for a do over. That’s not something that happens a lot, let alone in college. But when the unexpected happens, GradGuard can help you get back on track. Learn more about how to buy Tuition Insurance for your school using GradGuard’s college search tool.

Questions to ask your college or university:

What will happen to my tuition payment if my college student is forced to withdraw from school due to an illness or even COVID-19?

What is the school’s refund policy?

Do you offer tuition insurance?

Safety Student Life

Campus Crime and Student Safety

November 24, 2020

When you think about college, it’s typical to think of all the positive experiences and encounters you will have as a student. Whether it’s getting excited about your major, dorm life, making new friends, and gaining independence, most college students are ready for all the new adventures college has to offer. Unfortunately, campus crime becomes a part of the conversation too. Crimes such as burglary, sexual assault, hazing, and theft are some of the most common crimes that occur on or near college campuses. Here are ways to minimize the chances of being a victim of campus crime and what to do if it does happen to you. 

Protect valuable items.

  • If you have jewelry, designer clothes, shoes, or other items that may put a target on your for thieves, consider leaving those items at home.
  • Look into buying a renters insurance policy to protect the stuff you do decide to bring with you to campus, such as your backpack and laptop.
  • Be mindful of who you invite over. Make sure valuables are hidden or locked away safely.
  • Take pictures of your stuff in case you do become a victim of theft or malicious damage. That will help you file a claim for reimbursement through your renters insurance policy.

Travel in pairs or groups with people that you know. 

  • Use the buddy system when attending an event or a party. This is especially important if you’re a young woman who may be at greater risk.
  • Share your location with friends and let someone know when you plan to return.
  • Never leave someone alone in a vulnerable or uncomfortable situation. If necessary, leave as a group and make other plans instead.

Be smart on social media.

  • Don’t share when you’re away from your dorm or residence hall.
  • Avoid geotagging and sharing your location on photos, videos, and other posts that would reveal your current location.
  • Think twice about sharing any sensitive information online, including any revealing details about where you live or work.

Have a plan.

  • When going out, especially at night, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Walk with confidence, and avoid looking confused even if you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before.
  • Don’t use headphones or keep your head down looking at your phone when you’re walking.
  • Download safety apps to turn your phone into a pocket-sized security guard.

From making new friends to becoming independent, there are a lot of positive things to look forward to as a new college student. Overall, it should be fun. Bt with this comes the responsibility of staying as safe. Sometimes college students think campus is one big protective bubble. But that’s not always the case, unfortunately. Remember these tips for staying safe!

Student Life

Renters Insurance: 5 Things You Need to Know

November 20, 2020

You’re heading for college, with your parents’ car packed full of possessions. Next stop, your own independent place for the new semester. You might be renting a house, an apartment or accommodation on campus.

Whatever it is, there’s one big question – how do I protect my stuff?  Who’s responsible – me, the landlord, the college, my parents? That’s when the word insurance comes up. Suddenly you’re the one in charge and you need to find a way to protect your stuff.

You might be asking, why do I need insurance? College is supposed to be safe. Well, here are some figures we think you need to be aware of.

There are around 69,500 property crimes on campus every year, according to the FBI. Fires in student accommodation on campus numbered 1926 in 2015 according to Clery Act Data and 2017 survey of student housing officers reported that 98 percent of colleges don’t replace stolen or damaged student property.

So, it looks like insurance might be pretty important. It could save you a lot of money if something goes wrong. Next question, what type of insurance do I need and what should I look out for?

The good news is that there is a type of policy called renters’ insurance and there are products specially for students.  But, as you would expect, not all policies are the same and your needs might be different from other students. So, here’s a handy guide to the important things you need to consider before you take out a renters’ insurance policy.

Check what your landlord covers

Your landlord is only responsible for the building. It doesn’t matter if you’re renting from a private landlord or the college; they take out insurance to cover the cost of any repairs to the building and its fittings, inside or out. That could cover showers, radiators, windows and appliances like boilers and cookers. And if they provide furniture, they should cover that too.

But, a word of caution, if you cause any damage to the building, the fittings or the furniture, then the repair costs are probably heading your way.

Before you sign a lease agreement, ask your landlord to confirm in writing that they are responsible for those things listed above, and they have their own insurance in place to cover the cost of repairs.

When you look at possible policies, make sure it includes cover for any accidental damage you might cause to the landlord’s property.

Find out what your policy will cover

Will it cover all of your belongings, including your expensive laptop you bought just for college? First thing is to make a list of everything you’ve brought with you and update it with new stuff you plan to buy while you’re there, like new course books.

You’ll also need to put a realistic price on everything you own or are planning to buy. Think of the current price to replace it, even if it’s a battered old guitar or a rusting bike. There’s plenty of information online to check prices.

When you’ve got your list and your prices together, you’re probably amazed at your net worth, but that’s the figure you need to ask the insurer to cover. The insurer might also ask you to list any items above a certain value. Keep that list in a safe place – you never know when you might need it.

Does the policy also give you liability protection if somebody gets injured while they’re in your rented property? Your policy should cover their medical bills if you are somehow responsible for the accident.

You should also include cover for living expenses in case you have to move out if the landlord needs to do some major repairs to the property. Even a few days in a hotel could eat up a lot of dollars.

Check the exclusions in the policy

Most insurers set out factors or circumstances that mean they won’t be liable to pay out on the policy. The most likely ones are Acts of God, riots, natural disasters and extreme weather.

But, if you live in an area that is liable to flooding, for example, you may find that any cover you can get is limited. Insurers might also add exclusions if you live in a shared building where other people might be able to access your property.

Check the exclusions carefully to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises when you need to make a claim.

Look carefully at policy prices

Renters insurance isn’t all that expensive. Many plans will cost just $15 to $30 per month. The figure you pay will depend on a number of factors – where you live and what you want to cover.

Your zip code is one of the big deciding factors. Insurers have masses of data on different parts of the country, the number of claims from each area and risk factors they apply. So don’t be surprised if your quote is much higher than the figures a friend pays at a college in a different part of the country.

The figure will also vary with the value of the rental property and the other types of cover included in the policy.

GradGuard makes it simple and straightforward for students to protect their stuff. With student-focused features, like a low-cost deductible and no credit check, we’re available nationwide exclusively for college students.

Student Life

Forbes Spotlights Value of Tuition Insurance

November 17, 2020

The impact of the Coronavirus on the operations of colleges and universities has focused attention by students and families on the refund policies of schools. With families investing more than $300 billion annually in college expenses, it’s not surprising that Forbes recently published an article explaining how tuition insurance can provide a refund when a school may not.

Tuition insurance may not have been essential 30 years ago, when college was more widely affordable and school refunds were more generous. Today, however, given the both the high cost of tuition and less generous refund policies of schools, it’s an important benefit that colleges and universities can offer to protect their students.

When combined with trends in student health conditions, tuition insurance is also an essential consideration for families worried about their students chronic health conditions or potential vulnerabilities.   

Less Generous College Refund Policies

If a student needs to leave school, it’s more than likely that the institution will only provide a prorated refund through the first few weeks of school. Refunds for room and board and academic fees are even more unlikely to happen. 

Forbes personal finance journalist, Cameron Huddleston, recently interviewed John Fees, the CEO and co-founder of GradGuard about the importance of knowing a school’s refund policy.

“Typically, this is only a refund of tuition through the first five weeks of classes,” Fees said. 

A 2019 benchmark study conducted by HigherEdStudy for GradGuard found that only 6% of schools reported providing a 100% refund of tuition—down from 23% in 2015. None of the public colleges surveyed provide full refunds and nearly half of the schools don’t provide any refund for student fees and academic fees. 

Source: Forbes, Tuition Insurance Rescues Lost College Deposits And Payments. Data: GradGuard, Benchmark Study: 2019 Trends & Common Practices for Managing Student Withdrawals & Tuition Refunds

Growth in Student Medical Conditions 

A 2019 national benchmark study of colleges and universities revealed student medical withdrawals are also on the rise.  In fact, 70% of schools surveyed reported a growth in student medical withdrawals – up from just 42% in 2015.

In addition, the American College Health Association’s annual research report on student medical conditions also confirms the value of  tuition insurance.  The complete report includes even more dramatic increases in mental health conditions that may disrupt a students semester. 

GradGuard’s tuition insurance covers an unexpected withdrawal due to a covered illness, injury, or other covered reason. This chart below demonstrates the impact of health conditions that can also create a financial loss for families. 

Four common student illnesses including concussions and mono have a big impact on degree completion

How Colleges and Universities Benefit

Given the growing media interest by Forbes and other publications, schools are smart to provide their students the opportunity to protect their investment in college. There are multiple benefits to schools who offer GradGuard’s tuition insurance to each of their students including:

  • Help assure that students who have to leave school for a medical reason can afford to return to campus when they are healthy enough to do so.
  • Demonstrate to students that they can receive a payment for the potential financial loss that may result from withdrawing from an academic term due to covered reasons such as medical conditions.
  • Provide a more affordable product with expanded coverage that meets the needs of the school and student.
  • Reduce collections issues from students who leave school by providing the school a payment for any outstanding balance of an insured student.

Lastly, schools are smart to offer GradGuard’s tuition insurance because it will enable them to have an answer to students and parents who may ask them for it. The attention from the Forbes article, ‘Tuition Insurance Rescues Lost College Deposits and Payments’ will certainly lead to more questions from students and families looking to protect their investment in college.

Student Life

Paying for College on Your Own? Here’s Some Advice

November 14, 2020

It’s no secret that college can be one of the most costly journeys in life. Considering tuition, fees, books, room and board, traveling back home, and gas for those students who have a car, the amount of money spent on education can add up quickly! Some students have family and others to help with these expenses which can make life as a college student a little easier. But many others are paying their own way through college with little to no assistance.

Here are a few tips for students to consider if they’re paying for college on their own:

Don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA before each semester.

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Whether you have help from family or you’re pushing through college on your own, all students should fill out their FAFSA each semester. This federally funded program provides grants and loans for college students. It is always best to research the requirements and criteria before filling out this application because it can be a little hard to understand at some points. Always remember that grants and scholarship money generally do not have to be paid back. Loans must be paid back so it’s important to get as many grants and scholarships as you can!

Get a part or full-time job with a flexible schedule.

While some students work while in school for extra cash, others have to work in order to pay for all of their education expenses. Those students who must work in order to pay for their education should find a job that is willing to work with their school schedule. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Use your best judgement when making the choice to work part-time or full-time. Remember that the most important goal is to graduate and keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy. So if you’re already taking 18 credits this semester, adding on a full-time job would be really difficult.

Make sure the school that you choose is affordable. 

We all have different ideas of what is considered affordable and what isn’t. If you are a college student that is paying for your education out of pocket, be sure that the school you attend is the right choice for your wallet. Students often hear that in order to excel in your career you must attend the best or the most elite college or university. Some of the more highly recognized and notable universities often have higher tuition costs as well as room and board. Don’t fall into peer pressure! Always do your research on the schools that you are interested in and if the cost and atmosphere are right for you, making the right choice will be simple.

If you are a college student paying for college on your own, know that you are not the only one. Remember to always fill out the FAFSA before each semester and get as many grants and scholarships as you can. When looking for a job, whether it’s part or full time, make sure they are willing to accommodate your schedule and keep your physical and mental health a priority as well. Most importantly, find a college that is affordable for you and within your means! College will always be costly, but you don’t have to strain yourself in order to achieve your goals.

Student Life Transition

Common Barriers to Returning to Education and How to Overcome Them

November 10, 2020
Common Barriers to Returning to Education and How to Overcome Them

An increasing number of adults are returning to college, either to complete degrees that they already started or to further their education within a professional field.

While this is an admirable endeavor, it should never be taken lightly. Attending classes — especially as a parent or while still working — is a big commitment that comes with a variety of challenges. Here are a few of the most common barriers to returning to school as well as suggestions for ways to overcome them.

Finances Can Be Tight

Often a return to school is precipitated by bad finances, a languishing work situation, or both. This can make money feel very tight while you’re attending school.

While tight finances are a common challenge, you can address this barrier by:

Work Remains a Priority

If you attend school as an adult, there’s a good chance that you’re also going to work part-time, at the least. You may even have to maintain a full-time work schedule, especially if you don’t want to sacrifice your career momentum.

The need to attend school while still working can feel impossible. However, you can address the barrier of work and school by:

  • Tightening up your expenses and dropping to part-time as a temporary measure.
  • Accepting a longer educational timeline by attending school part-time.
  • Maintaining close communication with bosses and professors as you navigate your work- and class-loads.
  • Using a loan, if absolutely necessary, to help make ends meet — although you should have a plan in place on how you’ll repay the money.

Family Responsibilities Don’t Go Away

As if work and school weren’t already a lot, many adult students also have personal lives — especially families — that require their attention. A spouse may be a support during school, but children, while a blessing, do present an additional sense of responsibility.

If you’re attempting to care for your family while returning to school, you can address this barrier by:

  • Keeping a cloud-based calendar that collects all of your family’s schedules, classes, work hours, and extracurricular events in one place for all to see.
  • Setting distinct boundaries, such as times to work, do homework, and tend to family concerns — and then communicating these clearly to your boss, professors, and dependents.
  • Finding good healthcare for your family, even if you’re in a lower income bracket.
  • Scheduling in time to unplug and focus on family to prevent strained relationships and unwelcome distancing.

Self-Esteem Can Go Out the Window

Finally, with a boss looking over one shoulder and a string of professors peeking over the other, it’s easy to feel a bit over-analyzed at times. This constant flow of feedback, letter grading, and judgment, in general, can do a number on your self-esteem.

It’s important to maintain faith in yourself while you’re juggling so many responsibilities. You can take steps to overcome this barrier by:

  • Taking time to meditate and pray each morning.
  • Staying focused on long-term goals rather than short-term problems.
  • Resisting the need to become overly-involved in the full “college experience.”
  • Setting up lifelines to friends and family members when you need to talk.

Owning Your Return to School

Returning to school can feel daunting. However, if you take steps to maintain healthy finances, properly prioritize work, school, and family, and keep up your self-esteem, you can dominate your time on campus.

The important thing is that you proactively invest yourself in a good adult learning experience. Try to see your return as a good step in the right direction, rather than a challenge or problem that must be overcome. This lays the foundation for a successful, productive, and positive return to school.

BIO: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.

Career Student Life Transition

Is Community College the Right Choice?

November 6, 2020

Growing up, many students and their families are led to believe that attending a four year college or university right after high school is the best decision. They hear that the quality of education will be better, the college experience will be more fun, and that it will look better on their resumes when it is time to make a career choice. But community college shouldn’t be overlooked simply based on the benefits of attending a four-year university.

Here’s why community college may be the right choice for you:

The Cost

Most families and students know that community college does tend to be less costly than a four year college or university. This is often one of the biggest reasons students begin their higher education career at a community college. Classes are a fraction of the cost compared to a four-year university, and it’s a good time to get the general education studies out of the way, or even take classes that simply sound interesting to you, since tuition won’t break the bank.

Credits Earned Can Be Transferred to a Four Year College or University

The classes you take at community college can be applied to your bachelors degree. Many students don’t realize general education classes, like your English and science requirements, are the same at both the community college and university level. Just make sure you’re passing your classes and meeting with your counselor to make sure you are on the right track to transfer your credits. It would also help to begin contacting the university you plan on attending to make sure your junior college credits will transfer and that you are taking classes that are equivalent to what is offered at their institution. 

Associate’s Degree May Be Enough for You

You can earn a degree at community college and be done with higher education, if you want. It’s totally up to you! Lots of students make the decision to pursue career options with just their associate’s degree under their belt. Other options include joining the military or attending a trade school.

Staying Closer to Home for a Bit Longer

Some students are hesitant about leaving the nest so soon after high school that they make the decision to attend a community college that’s close to home. This gives first year college students the opportunity to spend more time with their family and childhood friends, save money on school, and maybe even get a part time job. Attending community college and living at home can be an easier transition for students who are paying for school themselves or aren’t yet sure what they want to study at a four-year university.

If you and your family are trying to decide whether or not community college is a good decision, take these considerations to heart.

Student Life

Quick Car Tips for Winter

November 5, 2020

Winter is around the corner, but  some of us have already seen the first dustings of snow. While snow may be beautiful to look at, it can difficult for some of us to manage.

One of the worst aspects of snow? Driving. Getting where you need to be can be complicated and even a little terrifying when blizzards, whiteouts, ice, tough road conditions and snow-related accidents could happen.

Tips for Making Sure Your Vehicle Runs Safely and Smoothly:

Add snow tires to your holiday wish list

In many parts of the country, regular tires may not be enough come December and January. Snow tires are a perfect addition to any vehicle during the tough winter months–the more durable the snow tire, the better. Also, make sure to check your tire pressure often. Ice, salt and snow can do a number on your car’s tires.

Be aware of parking conditions

Remember to check the news, radio stations and social media outlets often for updates on parking conditions where you live. When a storm hits, the first thing to go is parking. Don’t be left looking for a spot for hours or stuck with a parking ticket–keep up with your town or city’s current parking situation all winter long.

Get a car insurance quote

In case anything happens to your car this winter, make sure you have the proper insurance You can find an auto insurance quote that will fit your needs, no matter where you live. Having an insured vehicle will grant you peace of mind, since there is the possibility of weather-related accidents.

Be prepared

If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, assemble one this winter! Include basic car necessities like jumper cables, flares and a flashlight while also adding a wintertime touch: don’t forget a blanket, small shovel and a first aid kit.

Hope these tips keep you safe while driving this winter!

Adulting Student Life Transition

7 Tips For Living in Your First Off Campus Apartment

November 4, 2020

Making the transition from living on-campus to a nearby apartment brings many responsibilities. While it comes with more independence, it’s worth knowing if your complex is catered to students like yourself, or not. You can have friends over without worrying about dorm hours, or have the freedom to stay in your college town during the holidays or summer when the dorms are closed. However, you need to make sure you take proper responsibilities like paying your bills on time and sticking to your budget so you can enjoy your new apartment lifestyle.

Here are some tips for living in your first off campus apartment:

Have Everything in a Written Contract

When you live in your first off-campus apartment, it’ll most likely be your first opportunity to understand the importance of having everything in a written contract, and before signing it, you should read it through entirely. It also doesn’t hurt to have a parent or another adult read it through too since they most likely have more experience with renting. If you were promised something when you toured the facility or saw something in an advertisement, like a rent adjustment, you need to be certain that it is well-documented in the rent contract. And of course, don’t forget renters insurance.

Keep a Consistent Cleaning Schedule

Living in your first off-campus apartment means that you’re in charge of cleaning it. Whether you live alone or have roommates, you need to make a cleaning schedule and be consistent about making it happen. You don’t have to vacuum every day, but you should make a habit of wiping the kitchen and bathroom counters, taking out the trash, cleaning out the fridge regularly.

Pay All of Your Bills On Time

It might not seem like much, but paying your bills late will affect your credit score and result in late fees. To avoid having late bills, you can set auto-draft payments or simply write bill due dates on a calendar. If you’re collecting money from your roommates to pay the bills, you should start collecting at least a week before the money is due to make sure you have it on time.

Always Lock Your Doors

It’s easy to think that nothing will ever happen especially in your college town, but you should always lock your apartment door even if you’ll just be gone a few minutes. This includes running to your car really quickly or taking out the trash. If you’re uncomfortable with someone in your apartment, such as roommates or guests, you should lock your bedroom door when you aren’t home.

Think Carefully About Your Roommates

If you have roommates, you need to think long and hard about who you choose to live with. Will they be respectful of the complex’s rules? Will they be quiet if you need to study? Will they help clean up in the kitchen? Will they pay their part on time? These are all just a few of the questions you need to think about before agreeing to be roommates with someone. Just because they’re your close friend doesn’t mean they would make an ideal roommate. If you’re going the random roommate route, make sure to vet them thoroughly. Your complex may also have a roommate matching program to find you someone with similar qualities. Make sure you and your roommates each have your own renters insurance policy.

Create a Budget

Now that you’re living off-campus, you’ll be responsible for more expenses, and they can add up quickly. On top of rent and utilities, you need to create a budget for items such as groceries, entertainment, transportation (gas, bus card, subway pass, etc.), and clothing, and stick to it! You need to budget for the entire semester so you aren’t stuck eating sandwiches for the last 3 months of the semester because you spent all of your money the first month. Look into using a budgeting app to simplify the process.

Feel Free to Decorate

The apartment won’t feel like yours without a few personal decorations. Simple decorations like a team banner, throw pillows, picture frames, or movie posters will go a long way in making the place feel like your very own. Since this is your first off-campus apartment, you probably want make sure it feels like your own place, and bringing in decor items that show your personality will help.

Living in your first off-campus apartment is an exciting time full of new adventures! But don’t let the new found freedom get in the way of staying on top of the responsibilities that come along with it. Stick to these tips and you’ll be sure to be successful.