The Graduation Checklist for Parents

This milestone for your student can mean a lot of work for you. Use this checklist to bring some order to the chaos.

Work with your student to be sure they’ve completed the administrative steps to officially graduate.

  • Remind your student to follow through on these tips for college students and high school graduates.
  • Your student should receive information on how and where to obtain a cap and gown—along with any special stoles, pins, tassels or regalia—for the ceremony.

Consider mementos of the occasion.

  • Your student will have the opportunity to order class rings, yearbooks and other products to mark this important milestone. Check for deadlines.
  • Graduation is also a good opportunity for family and individual photos. Many photographers specialize in senior portraits.

Make any reservations required.

  • If you will be traveling to a college graduation, you may find that hotel rooms and transportation options are booked quickly and up to a year in advance.
  • Graduation party venues may also become scarce depending on location and number of other graduates on your desired date.
  • If you will order baked goods, catering, tents or other services, be sure to start that process early.

Invite friends and family to the party.

  • Work with your student to plan a celebration everyone will enjoy.
  • If guests ask what they can gift to your high school graduate, consider suggesting contributions to a college saving account or a gift card that can be used for textbooks and materials.
  • Don’t forget to have thank-you cards on hand for your student to send shortly after the celebration.

Start planning the move.

  • Whether your college student is moving to a new job or returning home for a while, he or she may need assistance. See our moving checklist for college graduates.
  • As your high school graduate prepares to move to campus, keep a copy of the college’s suggested packing list handy. Also see some items you may want to take care of before fall term begins.

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

Seven Tips for Summer Internships

7-Tips-Summer-Internships

Interning during college can help you prepare for the job market as you gain important skills and contacts. These tips will help you get started.

Cast a wide net

This is your opportunity to explore careers and employers, or take on a dream job, before settling down to your permanent career. Consider organizations like the FBI, Disney, MGM, Marvel Comics or the Jane Goodall Institute.

Combine two of your goals

Many college students gain a global perspective through a study abroad program. Similar work abroad programs can help you gain a new perspective on another culture as well as apply your studies in new ways. Start with your campus study abroad office to learn about reputable organizations and needed documentation or other requirements to work in another country.

Know what you want to gain

You can use an internship to define or affirm existing goals, set new ones, earn money or academic credit, meet potential contacts or mentors, gain entry to a coveted employer, or all of the above. Define your goals for your internship so you know which potential employers and workplaces to focus on.

Know what you offer

Internships, especially paid positions, can be competitive. Be prepared to treat the search and acquisition of an internship just like you would a job: prepare a resume and cover letters, interview professionally and sell your skills and enthusiasm.

Ask for help

Besides searching for internships online and through your campus career office, let family and friends, former employers and teachers, and others know you’re looking for certain types of internships. These connections can help pave the way with their acquaintances if needed.

Be flexible and reliable

Some internship providers will have set projects that will help you gain important skills, while others may not know exactly what to do with you. Be prepared to accept projects or tasks others don’t have the time or desire to complete. Use the opportunity to learn more about the inside workings of the organization, make connections and develop suggestions for improvement.

Meet the requirements for credit

You may be able to earn academic credit for an internship. Work with your campus career office or the related academic department to determine if you need to meet certain prerequisites, complete required paperwork or turn in a project or report to earn credit.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Staying on Track for College Graduation

Growing numbers of college students end up staying — and paying — beyond the traditional four years in college. While college can be one of the best times of your life, the cost of extra semesters means you should do your best to stay on track.

Here is what you can do, beginning with your freshman year, to increase your chances of graduating within four years.

1. Know your graduation requirements.

  • Colleges usually have a minimum number of credit hours required for a degree; some majors may require additional hours.
  • Know which classes count toward the degree requirements.
  • Maintain good grades to ensure you meet academic progress standards. If you fall below the minimum, you may be required to take classes that don’t count toward your degree.
  • Understand which electives outside your major you need to complete.

2. Plan out academic courses now through graduation.

  • Your college may offer an online program or paper planner to help you track progress.
  • Some required courses may entail prerequisites you need to ensure you take first.
  • Follow the recommended course plan or curriculum path for your major as a guide.
  • Know which classes are offered every term and which ones are only offered in the fall or the spring.

3. Ask for assistance early and often.

  • Meet with your academic adviser before signing up for classes and any time you need to evaluate progress.
  • Go to your professors’ office hours with questions or discussion ideas.
  • Attend tutoring sessions and meet with classmates to go over work.
  • Visit the campus career center to discuss career paths for your major and plan for resumes and interviews.

4. Focus on your goals.

  • Identify your major as early as possible.
  • Avoid taking classes that provide credit but don’t count for graduation requirements.
  • Attend every class.
  • Stay ahead of your assignments and projects.
  • Check your school email and online portal several times a week.

5. Know how special circumstances affect you.

  • If you are planning to study abroad or take on an internship or co-op, understand how that affects your course plan and timeline.
  • Summer, intersession and online courses can help you gain required credits, but be sure to know how the credits you take outside your college system transfer.
  • You may be able to test out of certain classes. Investigate these opportunities and how those credits are applied.
  • Credits are often “lost” when students transfer to different schools or change majors. Before taking these steps, work with your school to determine how they affect your graduation plan.

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

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 hostels.com 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

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.

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

12 New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

NewYears-Resolutions

The new year is a good time to evaluate what’s been working — and what hasn’t — for you at college and figure out ways to improve in the future.

Here are 12 popular resolutions for college students. Which ones should you adopt for yourself?

1. Improve your sleep habits.

Do you get too little sleep or have trouble getting out of bed for your first class? Resolve to get an adequate amount of sleep each night and make the changes necessary to ensure it happens.

2. Get fit.

You probably remember where the exercise facilities on your campus are. If you don’t like the gym atmosphere, or the hours or location aren’t convenient for you, find other ways to get your exercise — go for a daily walk or run, join an intramural sports team or create your own weekly competitions with friends.

3. Eat better.

Are you making healthful choices in the dining center? Do you eat too much fast food or easy-to-cook convenience foods? Stock up on healthy snacks while you’re at home over the holidays and make a resolution to replace more meals each week with a more nutritious alternative.

4. Add (or drop) an extracurricular activity.

Are you too busy going to club and society events that you don’t have time for studying or other activities? Or, are you bored and looking for a reason to get out of your room? Evaluate your activity level and consider whether you should join a new club or quit an existing one.

5. Try something new this semester.

College is an ideal time to study abroad, make new friends or take off for an impromptu (but still safe) road trip. You may never again have the same freedom and opportunity to try such a variety of things. Take advantage of it.

6. Speak up in class.

Even if you’re mostly in large lecture classes, go ahead and ask your question or voice your opinion. It may be embarrassing at first, but you’ll find it helps you be more involved and you may discover others who share your ideas. (And, it usually makes a good impression on the instructor!)

7. Set a savings goal.

Can you save money by renting or buying used textbooks? How about reducing your daily spending? Set a goal for yourself and see if you can reach it by the end of the semester. Find ideas for saving money during college with Student Loan Game Plan.

8. Get classwork organized.

Use a calendar system to plan out study times, course work, projects and papers for the new semester’s classes to ensure you meet deadlines.

9. Be a leader.

Find a leadership opportunity to build skills for your future career. Many organizations will take nominations and hold elections for next year’s officers sometime in the spring. If you prefer more casual leadership, take control of a study group or play an integral role on a house or campus committee.

10. Improve grades.

Unless you managed a 4.0 last semester, you have room to improve your grades. Evaluate the reasons you missed points on tests, papers and projects and make a plan to do better.

11. Invest in a good outfit.

Are you ready for on-campus interviews and career fairs? How about networking events? Make sure you have at least one professional suit or outfit. If cash is tight, check out consignment stores. Some campuses even offer professional outfits for free or a small fee to students through their career services department.

12. Try one career preparation strategy.

Visit your campus career services and get help with a resume, apply for an internship or job, participate in a mock interview or another activity. You’ll make connections with the career services staff and you’ll improve your chances at landing a future position.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Five Tips for Cutting Costs in the New Year

Jan17-TipsCuttingCosts

If one of your goals is to reduce expenses next year so you have more to save or spend on essentials, these five tips to cut costs can help, regardless of what you usually spend money on or where you shop.

1. Look for sales or discounts.

Consumer items tend to be priciest when they first come out in stores. You can often find the same item on sale if you are willing to wait a while. Also look for discounts on similar but older versions, bulk purchases and out-of-season merchandise. Websites and apps are available to let you know when specific items go on sale.

2. Shop secondhand.

Secondhand stores and online sites allow you to purchase good-condition books, clothes, video games and really, almost anything, used. Besides saving you money, buying secondhand also does the environment a good turn by reducing trash and manufacturing.

3. Make it at home.

Coffee, tea, breakfast sandwiches, lunches and most food items can be made at home for less than you’d spend at your local drive-thru. Recipes and instructions also can be found online for beauty and hygiene products, cleaning supplies, home décor and gifts that you can make less expensively yourself.

4. Swap with friends.

If you and your friends share interests, you may be able to save money by trading clothes, video games and systems, books and supplies that you’ve grown tired of but are still in good shape. A temporary swap can allow you to break out of your rut without spending more money. You may want to consider discussing what to do in case of damage.

5. Go without or use less.

If you’re paying for a monthly subscription, impulse buys or expensive but not necessary purchases, decide how you can get by with less or go without completely. You may be able to downgrade your phone plan, drop cable TV for a cheaper subscription or service, hit the library for books and magazines, or kick a habit that is costing you money and convenience.

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Ways to Get Fit for Free (Infographic)

Download the infographic as a PDF.

With the new year often comes a resolution to lose weight, get in shape or otherwise improve health. Gym memberships, personal trainers and coaches are often outside the budget for students, however. The good news is that you have many options to get fit for free.

1. Walk instead of ride.

Depending on your location, you may be able to walk to school, work and shops instead of driving the car or getting on a bus or train. Besides increased health benefits, you’ll save money on car maintenance, parking and fuel.

2. Use household items or public structures.

Find a convenient set of stairs, track or trails to get in a good cardio workout. For strength training, start with a bottle of water and graduate to a bottle filled with sand; then move on to larger jugs as you get stronger. If you’d like to increase agility and flexibility, design your workout around park benches, playgrounds or even your living room furniture.

3. Search for free equipment.

Start at home; you may have family members who have invested in machines, weights, mats, balls and other equipment and then abandoned them. You can also search or advertise on online sites like Craigslist or Freecycle for equipment that other people no longer want.

4. Download a fitness plan or app.

If you need a structured schedule to stay on track or if you aren’t sure what you should do when, look online or in an app store. Free tools are available for all fitness levels and goals.

5. Mix it up.

If you tend to get bored with a workout, search out free podcasts, TV shows and online videos or head to the library for videos and books. You can switch to another program easily as soon as you get tired of your current one, or vary your routines daily to avoid burnout.

6. Use student facilities and programs.

If you’re a college student or a high school student taking college classes from a nearby campus, check out the athletic and recreation facilities. You may have free or nearly free access to classes, personal training, gyms, fields and courts. If you’re in high school, check with the coaches and administrators on open gym times, weight room availability and track policies.

7. Join a sports team.

If you find it difficult to stay motivated on your own, consider joining a team. If you aren’t up to tryouts for a school team, look at intramural, community and amateur leagues. A desire to perform well in a game can help you stay motivated between games or seasons.

8. Become a friend of dogs.

With today’s lifestyles, many pet owners would gladly allow a responsible student to walk, jog or play with their dogs on a regular basis. In fact, a lot of owners will pay students to do just that, so you can earn money while getting in some exercise.

9. Volunteer.

Look for a volunteer opportunity that will allow you to get a good workout in on the job site. Communities often have home building and repair organizations, clean up committees and landscape crews that rely heavily on volunteers. If your community doesn’t have any, consider starting one or just help out your neighbors. Shoveling snow from several driveways or push-mowing a few lawns a week will keep you in shape.

10. Improve your diet.

Free recipes and meal plans are widely available online to help you create a shopping list of healthful foods. If you’re unsure what type of dietary change is best for you, ask your family doctor at your next checkup or check for advice at the campus health clinic. You can also see if you can set up a free, no-obligation appointment with a nutritionist at your local grocery store. Weight loss centers also often offer a free initial consultation; just be sure you won’t have an obligation to pay for any future services when you make the appointment.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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