10 Budget Tips for Spring Break (Infographic)

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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

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

College Visits: What to Ask

Header image: College Visits: What to Ask

A visit to a college campus is a great way to familiarize yourself with the overall atmosphere on campus and see what daily life there may be like. It’s important to find the right fit financially and personally so that you save time and money in attaining your degree. Choose from among the questions below to ask on your next college visit.

What to Ask an Admissions Representative

  • Is admission need-blind (meaning financial background does not impact admission) or need-aware (meaning that full-pay students are more likely to be admitted or that there’s a limited number of scholarships for financially needy students)?
  • Is there an introductory freshman year experience, such as a service or camp opportunity?
  • Is there a culminating senior year experience?
  • What is the average class size for introductory or general education classes?
  • Are students required to live on campus? Every year?
  • Are dorms available or guaranteed for upperclassmen?
  • What are the food plan requirements when living on campus? How does the food service accommodate food allergies/sensitivities?
  • How do AP, IB and dual enrollment classes, SAT subject test scores and CLEP test scores count for credit?
  • How does class scheduling/academic advising work? How and when do freshmen sign up for classes?
  • How does the school help students take the right classes at the right time to graduate in four years?

What to Ask a Financial Aid Representative

  • How do outside scholarships affect financial aid? Will they replace other awarded aid or be stacked on top of it?
  • What are the work-study opportunities on campus?
  • What campus employment is available for students not awarded work-study?
  • Is alternative financial aid, such as service-based scholarships, available?
  • Do financial aid packages change after freshman year?
  • How many campus and departmental scholarships are available after freshman year?

What to Ask a Representative of Your Major

  • What is the student-faculty ratio in my major?
  • What is the average class size for upper division classes in my major?
  • What opportunities for undergrad research would be available to me?
  • How many undergraduate students conduct research?
  • Is there a separate admission process for my major, and what does that entail?
  • What is the admission rate for students of my declared major?
  • Is my major impacted or highly selective? Or, is there a chance my major will be eliminated before I graduate?
  • How many students get internships? What is the process for finding internships?
  • Do companies come to campus to recruit? Is there an annual career fair for students in my major?
  • What is the role of teaching assistants for my major?
  • What does it take to graduate in four years?

What to Ask Your Tour Guide

  • How many students live on campus versus off-campus? How many commute?
  • Are art or music spaces available to non-majors?
  • What IT services are available, and how much do they cost students?
  • What is the campus sports atmosphere?
  • What do students on campus think of my intended major? Does it have a reputation?
  • What happens when there is an emergency, such as severe weather or an active shooter?

What to Ask Students on Campus

  • How crowded are dorms?
  • What happens on weekends and breaks? Do many students leave campus?
  • What other schools did you look at and why did you decide on this one?
  • What is the social life like?
  • How do you get around campus or to shopping, the airport or the entertainment district?
  • Do most students have bikes or cars?
  • How much does it cost to live off-campus and what are the options?
  • How hard is it to get into required classes?
  • Are you able to meet with your professors when you want to?
  • What are your favorite and least favorite things about this college?
  • Where do students get food other than the dining centers?
  • How do students view fraternities and sororities?
  • What are the most popular activities on campus?

What to Ask Yourself

  • Does the student body seem friendly and welcoming?
  • Are the library and other student academic centers up to date and are students using these resources?
  • What is available to eat in the dining center and how many options are there on a daily basis?
  • Where do students gather and how do they interact with each other?
  • Does the bus system run on time and go where needed? Does it seem overcrowded or underused?
  • What do I think of the main buildings, labs and facilities for my major and other main interests?
  • What does the student newspaper, posted fliers and notices tell me about the campus?

See questions that are easily answered through research instead.

By: Iowa Student Loan

College Visits: What Not to Ask

Header image: College Visits: What Not to Ask

Many of the most common questions people ask on college visits can be answered by looking at the school website or its Common Data Set questionnaire*.

* To find the Common Data Set online, search for the term on the school’s website, or enter the school name and “Common Data Set” in your browser search bar.

Research the answers to these questions to help you narrow down college choices.

  • What are the requirements for admission?
  • What other factors, like being a first-generation or legacy student, affect admission?
  • Are students typically accepted through early admission or off a waitlist?
  • Is a gap year allowed between admission and enrolling?
  • How many undergraduate students and graduate students are on campus?
  • What is the student-faculty ratio?
  • How many students are in the average class?
  • How many students graduate in four years, five years and six years?
  • What is the student retention rate?
  • What is the average debt for students?
  • What is the percentage of financial need met by the school?
  • What percentage of students receive financial aid?
  • How much of awarded financial aid is scholarships and grants, and how much is loans?
  • How many students are in fraternities and sororities?
  • What activities and clubs are available?
  • How many students study abroad?
  • Is there an honors college or program, and what are its requirements?
  • Does the school offer living/learning communities, and how do those work?
  • What additional services, including tutoring, academic advising, health, mental health and career, are available to students?
  • What are the crime rates and types for the campus and the surrounding community?
  • What do students and families say about this school on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit?
  • How do professors in my major score on ratemyprofessor.com and other educator rating sites?

See a list of questions to ask during college visits instead.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Understanding Starting Salaries

Do you know how much college graduates can expect to make in their first job? Iowa Student Loan offers this information, along with other related career information, for college graduates with common majors in its ROCI Tool.

Explore Careers with the ROCI Tool

This unique tool shows students how to estimate a realistic return on college investment, or ROCI. After choosing a college major, users see:

  • Top jobs held by college graduates with a degree in that major.
  • Links to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook description for each job.
  • Whether those jobs are considered to be on the career track for, or closely related to, that major.
  • The probability of a graduate with that major obtaining each job.
  • The average starting salary, which is equivalent to the maximum recommended total borrowing level.
  • Anticipated new jobs needed by 2024.
  • Proportion of graduates with that major holding that job.

Use the ROCI Tool to compare jobs, starting salaries and possible career choices.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Choosing a College: Consider Costs

Cost of attendance is often the biggest factor in choosing a college, but the affordability of any particular college or university can be difficult to determine. Here are some steps you can take.

1. Know how much your family can pay for college.

The actual amount you can afford to spend may depend on a variety of factors. Be clear and honest about how much parents are able to contribute and the amount the student will be able to earn or save for college.

2. Understand actual cost of attendance numbers.

Colleges provide current cost information for tuition, fees, housing, meals and other expenses on their websites. Look at these numbers carefully to understand how they are determined. Do tuition and fees change based on number of credit hours? Are students living in residence halls required to pay for a more expensive meal plan? Are the average transportation or living expenses high or low for your situation?

3. Gather information about scholarship programs offered by the college.

The school website is also a source of information about eligibility for the different scholarships offered by the school. Check to see if any apply to your situation and whether they are guaranteed for any eligible student or are competitive awards.

4. Research scholarships, grants and other aid recently awarded to similar students by the schools you’re interested in.

Many colleges and universities offer data about the number of students who received aid and how much total aid was awarded through a document called the Common Data Set. To find it, type the name of the institution and “Common Data Set” in your internet search engine.

5. Estimate your family’s costs.

A net cost calculator can help estimate the amount you may be expected to pay at a particular institution. Search online for the name of the school and “net cost calculator” to find that institution’s tool. Some calculators allow you to input your family’s financial and other information to estimate available scholarships and aid; others are less robust and will provide a more general estimate of net cost. Certain factors, like a family business, may affect the accuracy of net cost calculators.

6. Determine a realistic timeline.

The amount of time it takes the average student to graduate may vary depending on the school, specific program and other factors. The graduation rates provided on the school’s Common Data Set may help you determine a realistic timeline.

7. Compare a reasonable estimate of the actual cost for a total college career to the amount you can afford to pay.

This information will help you decide if a college is affordable to your family. Remember, this is only an estimate, and you may be able to work with the financial aid office, increase earnings, reduce expenses or find additional funding to make a college choice more affordable.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Comparing Postsecondary Options (Infographic)

The postsecondary options after high school can be confusing. Here is a comparison of the most common routes for recent high school graduates.

Keep in mind that these routes are not permanent or exclusive, and choosing one route doesn’t rule out other options if a student would like to pursue an additional or different path later.

Infographic: Comparing Postsecondary Options

Download this infographic as a PDF.

  Workforce Military Short-Term Education Apprenticeship Public Four-Year College Private Four-Year College
Description Full-time employment directly after high school · Before or instead of pursuing a college education

· Military academies

· Short professional programs

· Certificate programs

· 9-month, one-year, two-year college programs

Up to six-year programs Rely on government funding as well as tuition and fees from students Rely on tuition, fees and private sources for funding
Average Cost $100–$1,000 $0 $5,000–$20,000 $0 $47,000–$90,000 $77,000–$140,000
Potential Earnings Starting: $18,023

Mid-career: $31,239

Starting: $19,199

Mid-career: $41,958

Starting: $24,030

Mid-career: $44,056

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Required May need related job experience or certain skills · ASVAB test

· Fitness and health standards

· Background check

·  Requirements vary by program

· Placement tests

· Requirements vary by program

· May be minimum age

· May require community college acceptance

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

Typical Jobs • Accounting clerk

• Animal caretakers

• Childcare

• Clerical, administrative, office clerk

• Customer service representatives

• Driver

• Food services

• Maintenance and janitorial

• Retail worker

 

• Administration

• Aviation

• Combat officer

• Construction

• Engineering

• Health care

• Intelligence

• Mechanical and maintenance

• Public affairs and media relations

 

• Auto mechanic

• Barber

• Chef

• Computer tech

• Cosmetologist

• Court reporter

• Dental assistant

• Fitness trainer

• Nursing or home health aide

• Pharmacy tech

 

• Carpenter

• Electrician

• HVAC installation and repair

• Machinist

• Mason

• Pipefitter

• Plumber

• Sheet metal worker

• Tool and die worker

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

Sources:

  • Average Cost of Workforce includes the cost of work clothes, transportation to interviews and printing resumes.
  • Average Cost of Public and Private Four-Year College are based on the 2011–2012 net lowest and highest cost of attendance (after discounts on the published costs) per year multiplied by four years.
  • All other Average Cost information is based on figures available online for Iowa programs.
  • Potential Earnings for Workforce are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment up to high school diploma.
  • Potential Earnings for Military are private (E1) and first lieutenant (O2) from https://www.goarmy.com/benefits/money/basic-pay-active-duty-soldiers.html.
  • Potential Earnings for Short-Term Education are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of associate degree.
  • Potential Earnings for Apprenticeship are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of some college.
  • Potential Earnings for Public and Private Four-Year College are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of bachelor’s degree.

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

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

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