12 New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

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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

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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

5 Advantages to Networking During Break

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Use your time over the holiday break to boost your networking connections. Here’s why:

1. You’ll see a wide variety of people

During the holidays, you’ll likely see relatives, family friends, neighbors, former classmates and previous employers, all of whom have their own circles of connections and acquaintances. Tell as many as you can about your career aspirations — you never know when the opportunity may arise for someone to put in a good word for you.

2. Organizations have holiday parties too

Check out the websites and calendars for professional organizations in your career field. Many are happy to welcome interested students to their events, which creates a chance for you to meet and impress a large number of potential connections.

3. You have an extended period of free time

If you’re not working, you may have time to job-shadow for a week or more, or even volunteer to complete a small project for one of the companies you’d eventually like to work for. This offers a potential employer the opportunity to see your skills while you provide a valuable service, and it allows you to make connections with the employer and staff (who may also recommend you to their own connections later).

4. You have time to travel

With a stretch of two to four weeks away from school, you will have time to travel to a distant city or employer that appeals to you. Contact companies in your desired area and ask about opportunities for informational interviews, career exploration discussions and job-shadowing in your field.

5. The pressure’s not on

Since you have time before graduation, making connections now provides plenty of opportunity to develop relationships without appearing to try to land a full-time job. Perhaps the professional you met at the neighborhood holiday party will become a mentor throughout your college years and early career, or maybe a potential employer you visit now will become an internship opportunity for next summer.

Networking Tips

Before you head out to your first potential networking event, make sure you:

  • Have prepared a brief summary of your goals. Nail a casual yet professional 30-second networking speech about what you want to do and why.
  • Have contact cards and resumes on hand. Be ready if people ask if they can have a colleague or acquaintance contact you.
  • Set up your profile on LinkedIn and other social networks. Even if someone doesn’t seem interested right away, he or she may have occasion later to try to find out more about you.
  • Clean up your social media accounts. Your contacts and their connections may check you out before agreeing to an informational interview or calling you. Make sure they don’t have reason to call someone else instead.

And, always remember to say thank you, whether it’s for a person’s time, an introduction to someone else or a potential opportunity.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Six Tips for Staying Sharp During Break

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Winter break: a perfect time to catch up on sleep, eat wonderful meals with family and relax in front of the TV. These opportunities to recover from the stress of classes, homework and studying are important. But don’t let your time away from the classroom impact all that you have been learning. Stay sharp by engaging your mind in different activities.

Take Time to Read

A book, news or sports articles or your favorite blog. A break from typical academic reading to focus on topics that you really enjoy can remind you why you like to read before textbooks and research papers become your major source of words again.

Tutor a younger student

Helping someone master a difficult math concept, memorize the periodic table or learn about your favorite subject can benefit you both. The student you spend time with gains from your knowledge while you get a chance to look at a topic from a different point of view (you’re the teacher now, not the student).

Take an online class

If you’re in college, you may be able to take an intensive online class or two over the winter break for credit. If you’re in high school or your college doesn’t offer online classes during the winter break, check out your local community college offerings for credit or look for free online learning opportunities where credit may not be offered but interesting topics may be available. Top colleges like Yale, Harvard and MIT offer access to prerecorded lectures and courses at no cost.

Work ahead

Do you have your syllabus and books for next semester’s classes? Or do you know where you left off in a year-long class? Make good use of your down time by getting through some early reading and studying. Don’t forget to take notes about what you’re reading so that you can quickly refresh your memory when class starts back up in the new year.

Do something fun

Staying mentally sharp doesn’t necessarily mean doing work. Challenge yourself with a puzzle, arrange a family game night or create a scavenger hunt filled with riddles and problems to solve for friends. Entertaining activities can stimulate your mind and be much more enjoyable than spending time answering practice questions.

Don’t forget to exercise

Take your mind off school subjects by going for a walk, hitting a local basketball court with friends or trying your luck at an ice skating rink. Your mind and body will both thank you for some physical activity.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Easy Ways to Save Money Over Winter Break

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As you finish up finals and prepare for a nice long winter break, think about how you can save money over the holidays. These easy tips can help you avoid extra charges next year.

To Do Before You Go

1. Plan a cheaper way home (and back)

If you live several hours from college, consider these ways to save money on transportation.

Carpool. Seek out students from your hometown or a nearby area and share a ride. To find someone heading in the same direction, look at sites like Ride-Share.com. For a fair split of the costs, check out apps and online carpool cost calculators.

Ride the bus, train or plane. Check out Megabus for regional bus travel or Greyhound for long-distance bus trips. Amtrak offers student discounts on train travel, and StudentUniverse advertises low plane fares for students.

2. Go green to save green

Save money on your off-campus utility expenses by reducing the amount you’re billed for while you’re away from college.

Dial back. If you have your thermostat set for toasty temps but your rented apartment or house will be empty over the long break, turn it down to save on utility bills. Just make sure you keep it warm enough—about 50 or 55 degrees—to prevent frozen pipes or other damage.

Unplug. Docking stations, computers, TVs and other items use standby power when they’re idle. Unplugging what you can will save some money on your electric bill and help prevent problems from a power surge.

3. Winterize your ride

Do what you can to avoid the costs—and other complications—that stem from being stranded or in an accident.

Give your car the once-over. Check your battery, wiper and other fluids, wiper blades, heating and defrosting systems and brakes. Also check your oil and, if needed, get an oil change. Plan to always have at least a few gallons in the gas tank while temperatures are near or below freezing. Finally, make sure your tires are not too worn to be safe and consider snow tires if you will be driving in winter conditions.

Prepare for trouble. Make sure you have what you need if you do have a car emergency. Check your spare tire, jack, jumper cables and tow rope. Add winter supplies like sand or kitty litter for traction if you get stuck, antifreeze for gas lines and windshields, a small shovel and a snow brush with an ice scraper. Bottled water, nonperishable snacks, blankets, chemical hand warmers and a battery pack for your phone are also good ideas. While driving long distances, stop often for gas in case you need to run the engine to stay warm. (Always make sure the tailpipe is not blocked and no fuel is leaking before running a stranded car’s engine.)

To Do Over Break

1. Get a checkup (or a few)

Schedule appointments for dental, eye and general health checks, as well as any follow ups you need with specialists. Maintaining your health can help you avoid more costly episodes later, and many insurance providers offer a discount for annual exams. While you’re there, ask your doctors about any alternatives or generics that can save you money on prescriptions and supplies.

2. Use your student ID

You might be in the habit of asking for student discounts around campus, but your hometown retailers, restaurants and other venues may also offer savings if you show your student ID. Many online providers also offer special pricing for students.

3. Gift from the heart

If you’re planning to exchange gifts with old friends or family over the holidays, think about homemade (and heartfelt) gifts that cost less. Simple sewing projects, photo gifts, baked goods or crafty arrangements will be appreciated by all. Alternatively, suggest a group outing where you can split admission fees and costs instead of exchanging presents.

By: Iowa Student Loan

15 Ideas for Making Money During Winter Break

Depending on your school’s calendar, you may have from two to four weeks away from school with little or no academic commitments, which leaves you plenty of time to earn extra cash which could be used to reduce your need for student loans or allow you to pay interest on current student loans to reduce your balance.MoneyOverWinterBreak-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic

Here are 15 ways you can make money over your break.

1. Find a paid internship

Make money and gain valuable experience at the same time. Check with your campus career services office for available opportunities near campus, or contact companies in your field close to home.

2. Apply for scholarships

Spend several hours researching and applying for the scholarships you were too busy to look at during the academic session.

3. Work retail

Many retailers take on seasonal staff to help with the preholiday rush, post-holiday sales and gift returns.

4. Turn your existing part-time job or internship into a full-time position

Your employer may jump at the chance to give you more hours to offset other employees’ vacation time or to help handle year-end projects.

5. Babysit for busy parents

Besides the extra commitment of holiday parties and travel, many parents also seek temporary, full-time sitters for school-age children at home during winter break.

6. Take care of Fido (and Bessie)

Pet owners who will be away for an extended period of time may prefer to have a responsible person come in to feed, exercise and clean up after their furry friends. If you live in or near a rural area, don’t forget that farmers often need someone to take care of their stock every day. Advertise early to line up several commitments over break.

7. Be a house-sitter

Homeowners will often pay a responsible person to stay in their home, water plants, set out garbage and take care of other tasks while they are away for a long trip.

8. Sell your stuff

While you’re at home over break, take the opportunity to go through clothes, electronics, books and other belongings you no longer need. You can take them to consignment shops or sell them yourself online.

9. Be the designated driver

With holiday parties in full swing, more and more people turn to Uber and other driving services.

10. Promotional campaigns

Offer your tech and social media savvy to businesses who want to promote products or holiday sales. A few hours of your time can be worth a lot of money to business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to set up their own campaigns.

11. Put your creations up for sale

If you’re artistic or crafty, a little time designing holiday cards, decorations or gifts can pay off when you sell them online or at flea markets.

12. Fill in on or near campus

It may sound strange to spend your break on campus, but if you have a place to stay, you may be able to find a temporary position taking shifts for other students who’ve gone home. The bookstore, area shops and campus offices may need help preparing for the spring semester while some of their regular staff is out.

13. Teach a class

Work with local gyms, libraries and shops to set up special classes in something you know well and can teach others — a great workout for sedentary office workers, a how-to for smartphones or apps, creative cooking for the budget-conscious.

14. Do the legwork

Do any local businesses need help distributing fliers or making holiday deliveries? While you’re doing your own holiday shopping, keep an eye out for an opportunity to offer your services.

15. Take care of not-so-odd jobs

Advertise your availability to run errands, wrap gifts, hang holiday lights and shovel snow.

 By: Iowa Student Loan

4 Tips for Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to help you pay for college, so that you can keep your potential debt down when you graduate. Start with these four scholarship tips.

Scholarship Tip: Start Your Search Online

There are many scholarships available, and the Internet is a great place to start your search both locally and nationally.

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Scholarship Tip: Help Pay for Graduate School

Your scholarship search should not stop after you graduate with your bachelor’s degree. Many opportunities exist for students continuing their studies.

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Scholarship Tip: Nail Your Application

While you may be ready to write a scholarship essay, make sure you don’t miss small details that may or may not make you ineligible.

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Scholarship Tip: Essay Writing

If you’re applying for scholarships, you will undoubtedly have to write some essays. Take your time and do it right to help improve your chances.

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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

Five Advantages to Working During Breaks

If you need to build up savings for college and living expenses, think about a job during holiday and spring breaks.

Here are five advantages to working during school breaks.

Maintain your regular study schedule.

Because you don’t have classes to take up a large part of your day, you can often dedicate a large chunk of time to your job. If your break also falls between school terms, you can devote even more hours to earning money since you won’t have studying or homework to do.

Build up earnings.

You may be able to work 40 or more hours a week to maximize your earnings in a short period of time. Even better, while you’re working many hours, you have less time and opportunity to spend your earnings, so you’re able to save more to reach your financial goals.

Take advantage of openings.

Many employers need extra, short-time help to deal with the increased workload during the holidays. Besides standing behind a cash register, you may be able to find positions to help with stocking, holiday displays, returns and exchanges, or filling in for others who are on vacation. Seasonal employment is also more widely available.

Gain work experience.

You may find it easier to land a paid internship or co-op position for a short break than you would for an entire semester or school term. Even jobs that aren’t directly tied to your intended career can provide valuable transferrable skills.

Create a relationship.

As a reliable seasonal employee, you may be able to return to the same position, or more advanced positions with the same employer, break after break. You may even be able to land a permanent position or develop a network of mentors who will help you after college graduation.

See additional ideas for making money during breaks.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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