Building Time Management Skills

Students of all ages need good time management skills to balance school, homework, activities, family responsibilities and just having fun. Here are some tips for building effective time management practices to last through college and beyond.

Figure Out What Has to be Done

  • Make a list of everything that’s required, such as sleep, school, homework, organized sports and activities, work, and family and household commitments.
  • Add in fun activities.

Determine the Time Commitment for Each Activity

  • Plan for at least eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours for meals and personal care each day.
  • Use classroom materials or talk to teachers to determine adequate time to reserve for studying, projects and other schoolwork.
  • Incorporate additional time for meeting improvement goals.
  • Consider preparation for sporadic events like standardized tests, recitals and conferences.

Block Out Commitments Using a Planner or Calendar

  • Break big projects down into multiple stages instead of just listing a deadline.
  • Color-coding can be a visual cue for the most important items.
  • Ensure new assignments and commitments are recorded daily or as soon as they’re known.

Make a Daily To-do List

  • Put the most challenging or important items at the top to be done first.
  • Think about rewards for completing tasks on the to-do list.
  • Take along portable items, such as a book, notes and flashcards, to stay on track during idle moments.

Be Strategic

  • If procrastination is a problem, find out why. Is extra help with homework needed? Is it an activity that has become less appealing over time?
  • Discover the student’s best working conditions for completing specific tasks. Is it better to do math after school or after dinner? Is running better first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening?
  • Stay organized. A clean environment with all the needed materials at hand helps move things along with fewer distractions.

Develop a Routine

  • Set aside dedicated study time every day, even if the time of day must change periodically for seasonal or special activities.
  • Be consistent to reach short- and long-term goals.

Set Priorities and Resolve Conflicts

  • Remember that it’s important to set aside time to recharge and relax. Some students need time to read, be with friends, exercise, play games or enjoy other recreational pursuits.
  • Understand the consequences for not getting something done to help prioritize the most important items.
  • Approaching a coach or teacher with alternatives sometimes helps resolve conflicts, but understand that as pressures and commitments build, something may need to be dropped.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Building Good Credit as a Student

Credit is a tool and, similar to wielding many other types of tools, using credit can have both positive and negative results. Using credit positively can help young adults build a history that may enable them to get better terms for future credit, such as car or home loans.

Federal regulations limit the amount of credit available to teens and young adults. But, it’s difficult to qualify for loans or other consumer credit without a credit history. Here are some tips for students who want to ensure they’re building good credit.

Opt for a student card

Many national credit card companies offer a student credit card for college students, or those soon to be in college. These cards often carry more lenient requirements and low annual fees, and they may offer incentives for certain actions. For example, you may qualify for cash back for achieving certain grades or discounts on purchases.

Don’t go it alone

Work with your parents to become an authorized user on an existing credit account, like a credit card. This means you have a card with your name on it, but the account holder is still responsible for paying the bills. Be sure you understand the card issuer’s policy for reporting credit for authorized users.

Alternatively, look into credit cards that will allow a cosigner. A cosigner would be responsible for any debt if you don’t pay your own bills, so parents or other close relatives are generally the best people to ask. The cosigner must also have good enough credit to qualify on his or her own.

Create a solid work history

A steady record of income from employment indicates that you‘re more likely to repay debt over time. Generally, you need to demonstrate full-time or near-full-time employment to qualify for a credit card or other credit before the age of 21.

Make a deposit

A secured credit card allows you to make a deposit to secure a line of credit. Even if the deposit must be equal to the credit limit, using the card instead of cash and then making regular on-time payments will build credit. Some credit card issuers may offer an unsecured credit card after you demonstrate good use for a period of time.

Take on bill paying

If you share housing with other students, consider holding a lease or utility in your name. This means you will be responsible for collecting your roommates’ share of the bill each month and making the full payment from your checking or savings account. Demonstrating your ability to pay bills on time each month will help build a positive credit history.

Pay early and pay often

Once you qualify for a credit card or other consumer loan, be sure to make payments. Although you may be required to make only a minimum payment, it’s better to pay a credit card balance in full each month to minimize interest. Making more than the interest payment is also a good idea for other types of loans. To help ensure you can make payments, limit your use and carry a low balance.

Check your results

As you build credit, monitor your credit reports and scores for errors and signs of fraud. Each year, you qualify for free credit reports from the three national consumer reporting agencies from www.annualcreditreport.com. (Never pay for a credit report.)

Educate yourself

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides resources to learn more about credit reports and scores, building credit and what to do if you suspect fraud or identity theft.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Getting Back in the Habit (Infographic)

The first few days of a new school year can be a big adjustment after your summer break. Help yourself get back into the school routine by preparing now with these tips.

Download this infographic as a PDF.

Get back into the routine

Start waking up at the time you need to get up to get ready for school or activities. Set your alarm and go through your school morning routine to be sure you’re adjusted. Work on getting to bed at a reasonable time as well.

Notify your employer

If you’ve been working over the summer, now is the time to speak to a manager about adjusting your shift times or to put in your notice. Give your employer plenty of time to rearrange schedules.

Organize your space

Get ready for homework by cleaning your accustomed study area. Make sure you have the space and materials you’ll need to be successful this year.

Gather supplies

Take the time to inventory your school supplies, from paper and notebooks to binder clips and calculators. Replace or purchase as needed.

Clean out your closet

Go through your clothes to see what you no longer need and what’s missing. Take advantage of any sales tax holidays and back-to-school sales to stock up.

Prepare for activities

Get ready for your extracurricular activities for the coming term by cleaning, repairing and replacing equipment as needed. Ensure you have the clothing and other items you’ll need.

Organize your schedule

If you haven’t previously done so, it’s not too late to find a homework and activity organizer that suits you. You may prefer a paper planner, a shared online calendar or an app for your phone or tablet. Whichever you choose, start off right by entering times and commitments you already know.

Prepack

Put all the items you’ll need the first day of school together. Put your supplies and materials in your bag and lay out the clothes you’ll wear. If you’ll take your lunch or other food, have the supplies on hand to reduce last-minute stress.

Make a dry run

If you will be taking a new route to school, driving to school for the first time or starting at a new building, make a practice trip to get the timing down and avoid any pitfalls.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Crossing the Line: Improve Academic Standing for Financial Aid

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Good grades and test scores typically mean more scholarship opportunities. Did you also know that a small margin can sometimes push you over the line for eligibility, or even for higher awards? Here’s a look at how small improvements matter.

PSAT/NMSQT

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). If you take the PSAT as a junior, you’re automatically screened for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The top scorers in each state receive special recognition.

  • About two-thirds receive Letters of Commendation and become eligible for special scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.
  • About one-third become Semifinalists, and most of those complete several steps to become Finalists. Finalists are eligible for:
    • Merit Scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, corporations and colleges.
    • Special scholarships up to and beyond full tuition from certain colleges.

The difference between a Commended student’s score and a Semifinalist’s score could be a single point in a metric called the “Selection Index,” which is based on your PSAT scores.

How to Cross the Line

Preparation is key for the PSAT.

  • Take the PSAT 10 as a sophomore to become familiar with the test format and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie to better prepare yourself for the PSAT as a junior.
  • Use practice tests to review the test concepts and learn which answers are considered correct or incorrect and why.
  • Be sure to practice in timed test-taking situations.

ACT and SAT

Most colleges require you to attain a specific minimum score on either the ACT or SAT before admittance. Once you have narrowed down your college choices, review their scholarships pages. Many academic scholarships are based either entirely or partly on those test scores, and one or two more points may push you into a category for a more substantial award.

How to Cross the Line

Many of the same techniques above for the PSAT apply when taking other standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Keep these additional pointers in mind:

  • While the PSAT and SAT are both offered by College Board and have many similarities, the ACT comes from another provider and the format and content areas may be quite different. Use specific practice tests for the SAT or the ACT, depending on which test you plan to take.
  • Check to see if the colleges you’re applying to require or recommend that you take the optional essay portion.
  • You may retake either the SAT or ACT to try to improve your score.
    • Concentrate on preparing for the areas in which you want to improve, but continue to practice all parts of the test so your other section scores don’t fall.
    • Consider your options for sharing your scores with colleges. You may want to wait to see your new score before you submit it to a college, but an additional fee could be required.
    • If your score improves in some parts of the test, but you have a lower composite score because of lower scores in other sections, see whether your college will superscore, or consider your best score for each section of the test separately.

High School Grades

While you’re checking the test score requirements for scholarships, pay attention to the required high school GPA as well. Will bumping up your overall GPA a fraction of a point move you into another scholarship category and make you eligible for hundreds or thousands of additional dollars?

Increasing your GPA may also make you eligible for increased money from outside scholarship sponsors. When you search for scholarships, try a search with an additional 0.1 or 0.15 added to your actual GPA to see if you get more results. (Don’t lie on scholarship applications; improve your GPA before you apply.)

How to Cross the Line

Increasing your GPA may take some extra effort, but if it nets you additional cash for college, it’s worth the work.

  • Don’t wait. Take steps to improve a specific grade early in the semester or year. Later, you’ll have fewer opportunities to earn points, and a perfect final test can only offset so many earlier mistakes.
  • Take advantage of every extra credit opportunity.
  • Ask your teachers how you can improve your grade. Some may be willing to provide credit for an extra project or paper if you explain why you need the grade boost. (This is most effective if you’re an engaged student who generally completes all work on time, even if you don’t always get an A.)
  • Improve your study habits. See these tips for studying smarter.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Getting Involved: 9 Reasons Why

Opportunities to become involved in extracurricular activities, athletics, and work activities abound. Here are nine reasons high school students should take advantage of at least a few of those opportunities.

1. Discover new possibilities.

Involvement in an activity could spur a lifelong passion, introduce career options and help define identity. For example, many students first find a love for debate or technology through school activities

2. Ease transitions.

Moving from elementary to middle school, or from middle to high school, can be a big change in routine, relationships and environment. Continuing or discovering activities can help make the change go more smoothly.

3. Relieve boredom.

Being involved in an activity often means hours of practice, preparation and, sometimes, travel, which leaves less time for boredom or less-desirable activities.

4. Relieve academic pressure.

As the school work load increases, it may seem counterintuitive to spend more time on other activities, but the outlet is often a needed break from homework and studying.

5. Increase academic performance.

Education Next reports being involved in activities outside the classroom may play a role in improving grades and standardized test scores.

6. Build important skills.

No matter what the future brings, skills like teamwork, cooperation, creative problem-solving, decision-making and leadership will always be important. Many extracurricular activities allow the development of these skills that are transferrable to school, family and future life.

7. Make connections.

Whether it’s a coach, a teammate, a parent or an event judge, involvement in many extracurriculars brings students into contact with others who may become valuable connections later.

8. Improve college applications.

If college is the next step after high school, a record of involvement over several years can demonstrate a continued interest in a particular cause, activity or event. Colleges and universities appreciate seeing applicants who demonstrate that they are successful outside the classroom and will become active members of their academic communities.

9. Find others with similar interests.

A variety of activities are available for students of all backgrounds and circumstances, including:

  • School, club or community sports teams
  • Special interest clubs like card or chess clubs
  • Academic-related activities such as competitive math or science teams
  • Fine arts groups, like newspaper or social media, drama, dance or music
  • Student government
  • Volunteering for nonprofit and service organizations
  • Career-related internships and jobs
  • Other jobs such as retail, babysitting and tutoring

By: Iowa Student Loan

Before Applying for a Student Loan

So, awarded financial aid isn’t enough to cover the full cost of attendance and you know you or your student will need additional student loans to pay for college. Before filling out loan applications, consider future repayment for any loans. Here’s what you need to know.

Federal student loans are limited.

Undergraduate students can take out only so much in federal student loans each year. If additional student loans above that limit are required, you may need to consider private student loans or parent loans.

Undergraduates need adult assistance.

Students need to have a creditworthy cosigner for any private student loans, unless they can meet underwriting criteria on their own. If parents are willing to consider a federal Parent PLUS Loan, the parents will need to borrow that money and be responsible for paying it back themselves.

The debt will need to be repaid.

Student loans are not usually dischargeable for bankruptcy or other financial hardship. When you think about a future repayment amount, remember:

  • The repayment amount will be more than the original loan amount. Student loans accrue interest on a daily basis. At certain times, unpaid accrued interest may be capitalized, or added to the principal balance, and begin accruing interest as well.
  • Payments may come from a limited income. Carefully consider how much a graduate with the same major can realistically expect to make in an entry-level position. Add anticipated student loan payments for all the undergraduate years, including any federal loans in the financial aid package, to anticipated expenses for a realistic budget based on a starting salary. If all your expenses can’t be covered with a realistic starting salary, student loan debt may need to be reconsidered.

Interest and other payments can be made during college.

Most lenders allow early or extra payments on student loans at any time without penalty. In addition, paying interest as it accrues during school can reduce the amount of interest that will need to be repaid after graduation.

Private student loans vary.

Every lender has its own underwriting criteria, qualification requirements, loan terms and repayment schedules. Before you sign for a loan, research your options. Consider:

  • Variable vs. fixed interest rates. A variable rate may go up or down according to market conditions, while a fixed rate remains the same throughout the loan term. A low variable rate is often appealing, but remember that it may change drastically over the loan term.
  • Actual interest rate. Many lenders offer different rates based on the applicants’ and cosigners’ credit. If you are unable to determine your rate upfront, consider the highest rates.
  • Repayment assistance and benefits. Some lenders or loan servicers offer assistance if a borrower is unable to make required monthly payments. Some loans also offer special benefits, such as a reduced interest rate for making automatic electronic payments. Consider these features carefully.
  • Managing repayment. Will additional loans be needed for future years? Should all loans be obtained from a single or limited number of lenders to make repayment easier? Will consolidating multiple loans later be important, and does the lender offer that option?

College choices matter.

If you find that you or your student cannot afford to take on enough debt to pay the full cost of attendance, a new plan might be essential. Some options students have include:

  • Earning more. Increase the ability to pay college costs as they occur by earning more income during school terms and on breaks.
  • Reducing expenses. The full cost of attendance may include expenses that can be cut. Can living off campus without a meal plan save money? Are the book and fees and transportation costs realistic for you or your student?
  • Asking for help. Are relatives willing to help pay for college? Are additional scholarships, either through the school or outside entities, available?
  • Attending a less-expensive school. If the cost of attendance is still not affordable without taking on unmanageable debt, you may need to consider attending a less-expensive school, at least for a year or two.

Visit Student Loan Game Plan for more information and tips.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Making the Leap: Financially Preparing for College Life

The first year of college may bring a lot of new experiences, and for many, this includes the need to budget a limited income for the first time. Earnings from a summer job can provide financial help for the school year as well as the opportunity to learn how to be financially independent.

Follow these five steps to make the most of the opportunity this summer.

1. Take time to really understand the financial aid package. Make sure you have a good idea of expected aid and how much college will cost for the student as well as the parents or other financial supporters.

  • Each college provides set costs for tuition, fees, room and board, and expected expenditures like books and transportation.
  • In addition, families often face additional expenses that either add up over time or weren’t expected.
  • How much awarded financial aid is gift aid? Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back and fall into this category. Be aware, though, that many awards are one-time gifts and are not renewable for future years.
  • Is work-study reliable? Work-study awards are dependent on the student finding a qualified position and receiving the wage and hours required to total the award. Check the college’s website for a job board or financial aid section to gather information. Social media can also provide insight on whether students are able to find adequate work-study jobs.
  • Remember that loans must be paid back, with interest. It may help to calculate an expected monthly payment for anticipated college loans and compare that to average monthly payments for a car, house or other major expenses.

2. Track spending. Keeping track of purchases for a week or a month helps indicate where and on what most spending occurs.

  • Apps like Mint and tools like banking or card statements can be helpful.
  • A pattern of where spending can be cut or reduced may start to become clear.

3. Set up a basic budget. Budgets compare income and other funds to monthly expenses to keep consumers from spending more money than they have.

  • Take into account taxes and other deductions that will be removed from gross earnings.
  • Divide up expenses into general categories based on typical spending.
  • Consider how spending will change once the academic term begins.

4. Plan out a monthly budget. Use realistic numbers to calculate an in-school budget.

  • Don’t forget that earnings will need to cover expenses for the remainder of the summer plus the entire academic year, unless the student also works while taking classes.
  • If a school-year job with the desired hours or pay doesn’t happen, or if it’s necessary to reduce hours to concentrate on schoolwork, each dollar may have to go further.
  • If parents are contributing to expenses, how will that happen? Options include a one-time gift intended to last through the school year, a monthly deposit into a checking account, a shared credit card account for certain purchases, or another method.

5. Evaluate the results. Adjustments may be required, based on the initial budget and events that occur later.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Before the Next Big Step: What to Do After Graduation

It may seem like everyone else has it all figured out, and you are undoubtedly tired of the question “What will you do after graduation?” But, if your plans are not yet set as the big ceremony approaches, be assured you are not the first or last to be in this situation.

Whether you’re a new high school grad who isn’t sure about college or you’ve finished a college degree but haven’t been able to land the job you want, here are some suggestions for what to do until you’re able to take the next big step:

Keep Working Toward Your Goals
Don’t let inertia or rejection take over your attitude. Continue working on ways to improve your chances of getting the job you want or being admitted to your desired college.

  • Continue to send out resumes or explore education options.
  • Work on your soft skills, like communication techniques, teamwork, initiative and creative thinking.
  • Review your resume and practice interviews with a professional.
  • Clean up social media accounts.

Volunteer
Opportunities abound to provide service to those who need it. Check out volunteer options that help you expand your horizons and suit your interests. Many volunteer opportunity and matching sites are available online, including:

  • Createthegood.org
  • Dosomething.org
  • Unitedway.org
  • Volunteer.gov
  • Volunteermatch.org

Work
You may have student loans to repay or other expenses, so consider working even if you haven’t found an ideal job. You can:

  • Work one or more part-time jobs that provide skills related to your career choice.
  • Try out a type of career you haven’t previously considered.
  • Provide freelance or consulting services in a field you have knowledge in.
  • Start your own company.
  • Teach something you have a passion for, such as yoga, skiing or beginning coding.

Take a Short-Term Position
Although many opportunities are designed strictly for current college students, you may be able to find paid or unpaid positions.

  • Find an internship related to your degree or in a completely different field you’d like to try out.
  • Apprenticeships may be available to recent college graduates and can offer a good chance to break into a specific job market.
  • Research assistantships are available in both scientific and non-scientific fields.

Travel
This may be your best opportunity to explore the country and the world, before you are committed to a full-time job, settle down with a partner and children, and have social and financial obligations that would prevent it.

  • Work abroad as a nanny, an English teacher or in another capacity.
  • Get a job on a cruise ship or train as an airline attendant.
  • Join a program like Peace Corps, Americorps, GoAbroad or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
  • Become a tourist or adventure guide.

Get a Degree
Even if you’ve already earned a college degree, you may want to continue your education if you have the funds and time.

  • Retrain in a different major or field.
  • Take continuing education classes.
  • Go back to school to get an advanced degree.

Have an Adventure
Like travel, an adventure may be best experienced while you don’t have too many other obligations. Options are limited only by your imagination and come with varying levels of risk and financial commitment.

  • Fix up a house.
  • Audition for a reality show.
  • Take a commercial fishing job.
  • Become a roadie for a band on tour.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses – Register by May 11

Iowa high school students and their families can enter weekly drawings for two $250 awards, and Iowa high school seniors can enter a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards by completing a free online tool that helps them estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, can enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster until May 11. The free online tool provided by Iowa Student Loan uses information from students’ freshman year financial aid award packets, as well as outside scholarships and grants and family savings and earnings, to project estimated costs, funding gaps and potential student loan debt over four years.

“We want to help families make the connection between first-year costs and the total financial investment in a college education,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This tool helps them see how their costs might increase, what happens when one-year scholarship awards are exhausted, and how the family and student contributions can play a role in reducing overall costs.”

The tool allows families to customize both expenses and available funding to adjust results for changes in students’ situations over the four years. The results show yearly and total estimated costs of attendance, available funding and projected funding gaps. The tool also provides informational tips on how to reduce costs and potential debt.

After viewing their results, users have the opportunity to enter the drawings. Two names will be drawn each week to receive $250 awards for educational expenses. In a grand prize drawing, two names will also be drawn to each receive $1,500 for the students’ college expenses in fall 2017. The grand prizes will be paid directly to the students’ colleges.

For details and complete rules for the giveaway, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Giveaway. Or, to begin the College Funding Forecaster and enter the giveaway, go to www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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