Benefits of Summer Employment

As the school year ends once more, many students will start thinking about summer vacation and all the things they can do to fill up those sunny days.

For some this means actual vacation and a fun trip somewhere with family or friends. For others, this could mean activities around the community or a weekend road trip. For many, this means a summer job, and finding that perfect mix of work and fun.

Having a summer job is a great benefit no matter your age. For younger high school students, it’s a great way to start earning some extra cash and building some employment experience. For older students closer to graduation, this could be a time to explore future job opportunities and to save some money toward college expenses.

No matter your stage in the game – here are some great benefits to summer employment and the best ways to prepare.

Start early. If you want more than just a summer job, start early and make some connections. You could use your summer work experience as a job shadow or internship in a career field that interests you. Use your summer to experience a day in the life of a potential future career. Talk with your school counselor about local connections, or contact a local business that interests you about summer openings.

Experience. Even if your summer job doesn’t end up being in a field or industry that truly holds your passion, any work experience can be meaningful. You’re starting to build employment history and you’re going to learn about responsibility, time management, teamwork, and maybe even leadership. These are all important skills to develop and will help you when you start looking for work in areas that peak your interest.

Save. Summer jobs are a great opportunity to put some money in the bank for college. You don’t need to save every penny, but a good chunk going towards savings can save you a lot when it comes time to look at college tuition, books, or apprenticeship and job training programs. Try and save 30-50% and get a jump start on the future.  The more you are able to save, the less you have to take out in student loans and the more options you’ll have in planning your future.

Balance. With all that said, be sure and find balance. Because the saying “You’re only a kid once” is very true. Don’t work all summer long and forget to have fun. Life is all about balance and that’s a good skill to learn young. Take a weekend road trip. Go on vacation with your parents. Do a movie night, hang out with your friends, and be a kid while you’re gaining some work experience.

By: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Moving Checklist for College Grads

As college graduation approaches, you may be planning a move for a job or grad school. Be sure you’ve taken care of essential tasks with this handy checklist.

Change your address. Start by filling out the U.S. Postal Service form online or at your local post office. You’ll want to notify your family and friends of your new address, but don’t forget your college, student loan servicers, employers, credit card providers, service providers and anyone else who may need to mail you items like paychecks, tax forms or diplomas.

Contact your insurance providers. Besides advising of your new address, you’ll want to be sure you have the appropriate coverage for your new circumstances. Also ask about coverage for your items that could be damaged in transit during your move.

Establish a non-school email. If you generally use your school email for electronic communication, establish one that you can use after you leave college. Check that service providers and others who may need to get in touch with you have the new email address.

Update bank information. If you will be switching banks, make sure any automatic payment arrangements, bill pays and other services are correctly set up with your new banking information. If you have a safe deposit box at your current institution, make sure it’s empty and cancel your rental agreement.

Join a local chapter. If you are a member of a professional society or other organization, look for a local chapter in your new location. Attending a social event or reaching out to members can help you network and create connections.

Establish new health relationships. Ask your current doctor, dentist or specialists for recommendations of providers in your new area. Arrange to have your records transferred to the new practice or ask for a copy to take with you. Don’t forget about any Power of Attorney, HIPAA or other documentation you may have on file that allows providers to speak with others about your information.

Service your car. If you are moving to a different state, you may have to meet different regulations as far as car inspections or services. Look online and have your mechanic check your car over to be sure it meets requirements. A change in climate could also require different fluids or parts.

Fill prescriptions. If you have prescriptions filled at a local pharmacy, fill these before you move so you don’t run out during the transition. Also set up the transfer of prescriptions to a new pharmacy, or consider an online pharmacy that will mail your medications to your new address.

Gather all your belongings. Make sure you pick up any cleaning, stored items or stuff stowed away in lockers at your gym or college.

Fulfill the terms of your lease. Work with your landlord for a final inspection, the return of cleaning or security deposits, final rent payments and turning over the keys before you leave town.

Cancel or change scheduled deliveries. Contact any suppliers who regularly deliver items to your address, including newspapers, magazines, food services and others.

Get new documents. Once you’re established in your new home, register to vote. You also may have a limited time to get a new driver’s license or auto registration in your new location.

Take care of your pets. Different areas may have different requirements for vaccinations or various conditions that could affect your pets. Work with your veterinarian to ensure your furry friends are up to date. Then, if your new city requires it, be sure to license your pet. Also, provide your new contact information to any microchip or other pet location and retrieval services.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Take Necessary Steps for College Graduation

As college commencement approaches, you may be eagerly thinking about tossing that cap in the air and receiving your diploma. Don’t forget to take all necessary steps before graduation day. Here are some typical requirements to take care of.

Complete all coursework and departmental graduation requirements for your degree. This one seems obvious, but check with your academic adviser or the online system to ensure that you have met all the academic requirements, including internships, co-ops, student teaching, projects and other qualifications, to be eligible to graduate.

Apply to graduate. Many colleges require you to complete an application to have your degree be awarded. As part of this process, you may also need to complete additional forms or surveys.

Check your official records. Verify that the college has your correct name, permanent or next address, an email address besides your school email, and an updated phone number on record.

Confirm your diploma arrangements. Typically, you need to provide an address where you’ll receive your actual diploma at a later date. You may be able to arrange pickup if you aren’t leaving the area right away.

Prepare for the ceremony. You may need to pay a graduation fee, reserve or buy tickets for guests, RSVP for the ceremony and purchase your cap and gown. In addition, you may be able to order announcements, class rings, medals or stoles for the ceremony, or commemorative DVDs or photos if you plan to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Take care of business. You may not be able to graduate if you owe any outstanding balances for tuition, parking, housing, library fines or other fees. Return library, lab and other materials as needed, and cancel any ongoing payment arrangements for services like student health insurance and parking permits.

Prepare to repay student debt. Many students who have student loans are required to participate in a financial aid exit interview before leaving school. This is your opportunity to be sure you understand when you have to start repaying your loans, how much payments will be and where you should direct them.

Get ready to move out and move on. If you’re living in the dorms, check with the housing or student life department regarding procedures for students who are graduating.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Working During Spring Break

How much money can you save by working over spring break instead of going on a trip? The specific answer depends on several circumstances, but the average savings could be in the thousands of dollars. Here’s a breakdown.

Assume you make $9 an hour and work eight hours a day for six days of a nine-day break. Your earnings after taxes would be $375.

Add to that your savings for not traveling to a typical spring break destination, which could be over $1,000. See how you can apply these earnings to college expenses.

Hourly Wage $9
Hours Worked Over Break (9 Days) 48
Net Earnings After Taxes $375
Average Flight + Hotel Cost (5-Night Stay) See source $1,077
Total (Net Earnings + Travel Savings) $1,452

By: Iowa Student Loan

Dine on a Dime: Eight Budget Tips for Dining During Spring Break

Food and drinks can be among the most expensive parts of any trip, and visiting a popular destination for spring break is no different. These eight tips will help you dine on a dime over break.

1. Buy your own groceries.

If you’re traveling by car, you can do this at your favorite discount stores before you leave. Otherwise, you may need to check for local chains with sales or discounts once you arrive. Either way, having a stock of snacks, drinks and groceries will allow you to avoid purchasing marked-up items for convenience. If your lodging has a fridge and microwave, you can make some of your main meals.

2. Take advantage of hotel perks.

If your hotel offers a free breakfast or a happy hour with snacks, be there. Get at least one free meal a day, and if possible, pack a piece of fruit or granola bar in your pocket for a snack.

3. Bring a refillable water bottle.

Using your own container filled from a tap or drinking fountain will reduce the amount spent on bottles of water. Hotels usually have a free ice machine to keep your drink cold.

4. Know when to dine.

Lunch is often less expensive than dinner, and Wednesday may be cheaper than Saturday, at restaurants. If you want to try a specific place or plan to eat out for only one meal a day, choose the day and time of your meal carefully to save. Catching a sidewalk vendor or food truck at the end of the day might score some good deals on leftovers as well.

5. Know where to dine.

Ask locals for recommendations on less-expensive, out-of-the-way and authentic restaurants. Conversely, keep your eyes open for happy hours, buffets and other meal deals at the hot tourist spots.

6. Keep your extras.

If your restaurant portion is larger than you need for one meal, and you have a fridge back in your room, take the leftovers with you for another meal.

7. Get it to go.

Order a meal to go to avoid the extra costs for drinks and tips. In addition, you may also avoid the temptation to splurge on appetizers, desserts or other extras.

8. Get a discount.

Smartphone apps, online discount codes, daily deal sites, coupons and discounted gift certificates are all your friends. Search for the savings before you pick out your dining location. You may also be able to get discounts for students, AAA or other memberships, or members of fan or birthday clubs.

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Budget Tips for Spring Break (Infographic)

Download Infographic as a PDF.

Spring break can mean fun, sun and no worries, unless you blow your budget. Use these tips to help you stay on track during break and save your money for your education.

1. Plan ahead.

Start scouting for sales and less-expensive options early. Check out flights, hotels, destinations and activities so you don’t pay more for last-minute decisions. Read reviews of the activities or venues you want to include to see if they’re worth the cost. Also, pack everything you’re likely to need to avoid tourist prices on sunscreen, sunglasses, raingear, chargers and attire.

2. Take a cheaper flight.

Airfare is expensive, especially during high traffic times like spring break. But you can save some money by flying discount airlines, at off-peak times and days, non-direct and through alternate airports. In addition, check to see whether you can save by sitting separately from your companions and avoiding baggage fees.

3. Drive or ride instead of flying.

Buses and trains may get you where you want to go at a big savings. Or, get together with friends to share a road trip to your destination. These may take longer than flying but can be as much fun as the destination.

4. Take the road less traveled.

The beaches of the eastern seaboard are often less crowded than those of Florida, Mexico or Texas during spring break and can offer savings. Maybe this is the ideal time for you to explore the mountains or the desert and avoid the party scene.

5. Stay for less.

Apps and sites like Airbnb, VRBO and can point you to less expensive lodging wherever you decide to go. Consider camping if you’re driving—government-owned sites are often least expensive, and you can even rent camping gear. To spend even less, stay with someone you know. Check out options for your final destination and lodging along the way.

6. Save on activities.

Look for discounts before you go through memberships like Costco and AAA, as well as apps like RoadTrippers, Groupon and Living Social. Also, an Internet search may turn up promotional codes you can use when you book. Once you arrive, some places may offer a discount if you show your student ID, and look for coupon books in the lobbies of hotels.

7. Save on food.

Depending on how you’re traveling, it may make sense to stock up on food for meals and snacks as well as beverages before you leave. If you’re flying, look for discount chains once you arrive. Preparing your own food will save on high restaurant and venue costs. See more tips for budget dining on spring break. <link to other post>

8. Avoid impulse buying.

It’s tempting to pick up a memento of your trip or to indulge yourself. Think about whether that coconut mug or t-shirt will get any use when you get back, or if the signature drink is worth the cost. Set a budget for each day and stick to it. You could even only bring the amount of cash you want to spend with you, leaving your credit card and extra cash in the hotel safe.

9. Use your legs.

Instead of renting a car, taking cabs or using Uber, consider renting a bike or simply walking where you need to go at your destination.

10. Stay out of trouble.

Avoid large fines and penalties by knowing and abiding by the laws at your destination, including those for driving, consuming alcoholic beverages and noise.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Replacing Non-Renewable Scholarships

As the academic year comes to a close, many college students face a harsh financial reality: Scholarships and grants that made the current year affordable will soon come to an end. Some awards are only intended to be applied to the first year of college; others carry renewal requirements, such as a minimum GPA or a specific major, that go unmet.

If fewer scholarship and grant funds will be available to you or your student next year, start planning now to make up the shortfall. Here are three ways students may replace non-renewable scholarships.

1. Find new scholarships. Although many scholarships are available to freshmen, you may be able to find scholarships for upperclassmen with a little effort.

  • If you have settled on a major, start with your academic department or college. Search the department website, visit the departmental office and talk to your academic adviser.
  • Stop in the campus financial aid office and see what scholarships are offered to students who have your academic and extracurricular interests.
  • Check with professional and pre-professional organizations about programs to help students in your intended career field.
  • Search online databases for upperclassmen scholarships. Certain scholarships like those offered by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the Morris K. Udall Foundation are only for upperclassmen, while others allow applicants of any undergraduate level.
  • Look for local and small scholarships. A lot of students tend to compete for national and large scholarships. You may have better luck standing out among applicants for smaller and local awards.

2. Increase earnings. If you are unable to earn new scholarships, you may want to consider adding work hours.

  • During the school year, you may be able to find positions on or near campus that allow you to prepare for your intended career while earning money. Look for jobs as a teaching assistant, tutor or research assistant.
  • Resident Assistants in the dorms may qualify for reduced room and board costs, while other campus positions may allow you to study during slow times. Businesses near campus often hire college students during the academic year as well. Even part-time positions can pay well over time.
  • Over breaks, you can work more hours to increase income. Summer research on campus or for private, nonprofit and government organizations can help you create career connections.
  • If you need an internship to meet graduation requirements, look for paid positions that will offset your tuition, housing and transportation costs. Some colleges and organizations also offer stipends to help students who have an unpaid internship or co-op.

3. Lower costs. Especially in combination with increased earnings, lower costs can help you make up for the loss of non-renewed scholarships.

  • Consider living off campus. Carefully weigh the cost for paying rent (most leases run a full year instead of the 10-month academic term), furnishings, utilities, groceries and transportation against room and board rates to determine if moving will save you money.
  • Even small changes can help you save a large amount of money if you are consistent and diligent.
  • Plan ahead when purchasing furnishings, supplies and books to save. Make sure you take advantage of the least expensive option that will allow you to succeed.
  • Stick to a budget to cut costs year-round. Know where you can save the most money with a little effort.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Don’t Let Winter Break Stress You Out


Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

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


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

Use Your Winter Break to Research and Apply for Summer Internships


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

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