Don’t Let Winter Break Stress You Out

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Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

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Winter break is a blessing for many reasons. The end of the fall semester is a celebration and having winter break is a chance to relax, rest, and refocus. The best advice for winter break is to try not to fill it up with so many to-dos that you get all stressed and anxious again before school starts back up.

During break, take time to catch up with friends, spend some time with your family, and just unwind from the stress of the semester. While winter break is a great time to keep up on community commitments such as volunteering, it’s important to take some time for you as well.

“Me time” is often over-looked during this busy season. After all, it is the season of giving and thinking of others. However, not taking time for yourself can lead to stress and anxiety, which is not part of the recipe for a successful start to the new semester.

So yes, give back with some community service. Spend some time working on scholarship applications. Reconnect with friends and family. But remember to take some time and do something for yourself.

Here are some suggested winter break activities:

  • Sleep in – not every day but give yourself some time to just sleep.
  • Eat – take advantage and eat as much of that home-cooked holiday fare as you can. Good, wholesome, home-cooked food is the best, just go easy on the desserts!
  • Read a book – winter is a great time to curl up under a blanket and read a book for fun. Pick something that interests you and that is fun – not part of a study group.
  • Go out to a movie or see a play – get out and enjoy the community. See a movie or head to a local community theatre for a holiday production.
  • Play a board game – board games are a great way to connect with friends and family. Dig out old family favorites and grab something new.
  • Disconnect from tech – give yourself some time away from computers, tablets and even your phone. Reconnect with the real world and leave the screen for another day.

Enjoy winter break – you deserve it.

The Responsible Student’s Holiday Gift List

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Many students are still tempted by the most recent video games or the latest fashions, but it may be time to consider holiday gifts with more lasting benefit. Here are some holiday gift suggestions for responsible students to help avoid additional college debt.

Share these 10 gift ideas with friends and relatives who would like to help.

1. College Savings Contribution
Cash deposited into a 529 or college savings plan is a direct contribution to college costs. Help interested contributors by providing the information they need to make a deposit: the name of the plan and account holder, account number if needed, the website, contribution forms and instructions on how to take advantage of any tax benefits for the contributor.

2. Books and Materials
Check out required texts or materials for next semester’s classes for gift ideas. A gift card to the university bookstore or to an online supplier can also help avoid some of the cost to purchase or rent books and other supplies.

3. Gift Cards to Area Businesses
Once tuition, fees and housing expenses are paid, daily living expenses can become a drain on a college budget. Gift cards to area restaurants, grocery stores, retail chains and other businesses can help offset some of the costs for the little things that add up.

4. Online Subscriptions
Consider a prepaid subscription to an online newspaper or journal needed for classes or to keep up with changes in a specific field. Online movie and entertainment services also offer subscription options.

5. Backpacks and Other Gear
College students can get by on little, but something is needed to tote around books, laptop and pencils. Also think about charger or battery packs, cords, headphones and other gear that can get pricey if they need to be purchased in a hurry or all at once.

6. Food, Snacks and Storage Ware
A supply of healthy snacks with a long shelf life can reduce the amount spent at the dorm convenience shop or vending machine for students in residence halls. Off-campus students also appreciate a pantry well-stocked with favorite fixings and needed storage containers.

7. Small Appliances
Daily stops for coffee, tea, breakfast sandwiches and similar items can become an expensive habit. Shiny new appliances designed for single servings and college students will save money and the provide perfect amount of favorite ingredients.

8. Interview and Professional Wear
Timeless essentials suitable for variable weather are nice to have on hand for an interview, conference or other event requiring business wear. Remember a professional-looking bag, portfolio and other items.

9. Cleaning and Laundry Supplies
A ready supply of money for coin-operated laundry machines, detergent, a small vacuum and other cleaning supplies will save cash over time. Think about reusable supplies, like cloth mop pads and washable wipes, as well as the consumable liquids and powders needed to get through a year.

10. Money and Professional Advice
Whether this is provided from personal experience or in the form of books from industry experts, students often need to learn how to manage money and start on the right professional foot to avoid additional debt from uninformed decision-making, extra terms in college or long periods of unemployment.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Ways to Engage Your College Student During the Holidays

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The long winter break offers parents and college students an opportunity to reconnect and share thoughts on college life. It can also be a stressful time for both parents and their adult children, who are becoming more independent with each week at college.

Making supportive and timely efforts to learn about life at college can truly help you and your son or daughter communicate openly.

Here are some ideas for tackling five big topics.

Fall Grades

  • Keep in mind that college classes are more challenging than high school classes and your student’s grades may reflect that fact.
  • Once grades arrive, be sensitive to your student’s reaction and congratulate successes.
  • Unless there is a major issue with your student’s grades, wait for an invitation to discuss ways to improve study habits, time management and his or her use of campus resources.

Spring Classes

  • Check in with your student on upcoming classes without appearing to question his or her ability to manage college on his or her own. You can do this by asking which class or classes he or she is looking forward to next semester instead of asking if the classes will meet graduation requirements or wanting to see a class schedule.
  • If your student already has spring syllabuses, offer assistance in looking for books online before classes start.
  • Find out if he or she needs some quiet time to get a head start on any reading and help facilitate that by keeping younger siblings occupied or treating your student to a favorite meal away from the dinner table so he or she can keep studying.

Finances

  • If you haven’t already, you and your student can work on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for next year’s financial aid. Go online to FAFSA.gov, log in and begin entering any information from 2016 you already have. You can estimate tax information. Starting on this now helps prevent you and your student from having to deal with it long distance while classes are in session.
  • Working on FAFSA paperwork might provide a good opening to discuss your student’s budget. If overspending is an issue, ask if he or she has a plan to cut back on spending or if getting a part-time job might be necessary. Keep your student’s unique nature in mind and work with his or her preferences. If being in charge of his or her entire semester’s budget didn’t work, ask if your student would prefer to receive set amounts monthly to help with overspending. If there have been restrictions on how much money he or she can access at once, find out if your student is ready to be in control of more financial decisions through the next semester. Remember that students may make mistakes, and that it is part of learning.

Future Plans

  • Another important matter to talk about with your student while working on the FAFSA is his or her plans for the next academic year. For example, does your student want to live on campus or off next year?
  • Find out what interests your student has to open opportunities for discussing how you can help him or meet college goals. Is studying abroad an option? Does your student want to work part-time to earn extra spending money or gain experience or does volunteering pique his or her interest?

What can I do?
Ask if there is anything your student wants to talk to you about. Your student may not have an answer immediately, but knowing he or she can talk to you anytime may lead to future discussions.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Use Your Winter Break to Research and Apply for Summer Internships

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During the long break from classes to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year, you’ll probably find you have some serious free time. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Set aside some time during the break to research internship opportunities and complete or prepare applications.

Research First
The first week or two of break may be filled with catching up on sleep, getting in some good relaxation time in front of the TV and hanging out with friends and family. Once Jan. 1 arrives, though, you may want to start getting back into a routine that will also help when you return to classes.

Think about how much time you would have spent studying during a normal weekday. Start spending that amount of time searching online for internship opportunities, reviewing requirements and learning about companies offering internships. Start by thinking of companies that you would like to work at and searching for internships by key word descriptions to find business you may not have considered at first.

Research the companies you plan to apply with and keep a set of notes for each one. Having a list of things you like or admire about a company, along with a basic understand of what they do and how you might be able to help them, as reference points when you’re working on applications can help you stand out from others.

Schedule Time to Work on Applications
As you find internships that interest you, be sure to keep track of the company, what the application requirements are and what the application deadline is.

List deadlines in your calendar or planner and aim to send in applications early. Try to work backward by planning when you need to have reference letters in hand and your resume and cover letter completed and then block time off to complete those tasks.

Learn More
If businesses you’re interested in interning at are located in your home town or nearby, you may be able to schedule informational interviews or volunteer at one during winter break. Treat the experience purely as a learning opportunity and leave a positive and lasting impression with managers, employees and human resources. If those at the company are impressed with your attitude and abilities, you’ll likely move to the top of the list when it comes time to offer internships for the summer.

By: Iowa Student Loan