16 Mar

Right about now many of you are on the hunt for scholarships for the upcoming school year.  If you’re not, you should be.  Work with High School guidance counselors, family members, or friends who have been through the process before to get some helpful hints.

You can even start your own search.  There are great “FREE” resources available to help you look for private scholarships such as www.finaid.org/, www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com!

man hiking in woods; text overlay: How to Avoid Scholarship Scams

But some scholarship resources aren’t quite as friendly. The Federal Trade Commission has investigated numerous consumer complaints in recent years about such firms and found fraudulent activity.

What are some fraud warning signs to watch out for?

-You are required to pay a fee to apply

-A “money-back guarantee”

-The application requires credit card/bank account information

-Offers “exclusive” information, especially if you respond quickly

What are some common scholarship scams?

Phony scholarship-promises cash if you pay a registration fee

Phony scholarship matching service-pay a fee and they guarantee you will win awards

Phony educational loan-pay a fee and receive a low interest rate

Phony financial aid seminar-a high pressure, poorly concealed sales pitch

Phony grant-promises to replace loans with grant if you pay a processing fee

Where do I report a scam?

National Fraud Information Center (NFIC)

File an online complaint at www.fraud.org, call their toll-free hotline at 1-800-876-7060

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

To report suspected fraud, visit www.ftc.gov and click on File a Consumer Complaint to use the online form, or call 1-888-FTC-HELP (1-202-382-4357).  For more information watch: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

State Attorney General’s Office

File your complaint with the Consumer Protection Division in your home state.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Report business fraud, or ask for information about a company. Visit www.bbb.org (You must have an address for the questionable organization to file a complaint).

United States Postal Inspection Service

To file a complaint involving mail fraud call the Postal Crime Hotline at 1-800-654-8896 or visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactUs/filecomplaint.aspx to file online.

Spring Break is Here and So Am I. Now What?!

8 Mar


Spring Break is here and I am excited!  Even though it still feels like winter, spring is approaching quickly and it is finally time to take off from classes.  Are you staying on campus for Spring Break or sticking around West Lafayette for the summer and looking to save money on activities, spend time outdoors, or find indoor activities when the weather isn’t the greatest?

The Greater Lafayette Area is brimming with outdoor activities during the spring or summer from parks, to trails, to outdoor performances. You can visit the Lafayette-West Lafayette website here to get more information on all the upcoming outdoor activities.  I’ve gone ahead and summarized some of the activities below.

Lafayette/West Lafayette/Tippecanoe County Parks

Lafayette alone boasts 17 parks. Some of these parks have trails, some parks have pools, most of them have picnic shelters, and some of them are just soccer fields with a concession stand. Not to mention there are 12 more parks just across the river in West Lafayette! There are 3 good sized parks with hiking trails in West Lafayette (the Celery Bog Nature Area itself is 195 acres!) for hikers and casual nature lovers to enjoy. But in my opinion, the most diverse parks lie outside the city limits in Tippecanoe County. The Tippecanoe Battlefield in Battle Ground, Indiana, features a lot of history, including a monument in honor of the Battle of Tippecanoe; it’s also the start of the Wabash Heritage Trail.

West Lafaeytte Parks

Wolf Park

Located in Battle Ground, this park is a sanctuary for, you guessed it, wolves. It’s also home to coyotes, fox, and bison. They have limited hours (1PM – 5PM Tuesday through Sunday) but it only costs $8.00 for an adult, $6.00 for children 6-13, and free for children under 5 to get into the park. There’s a BUNCH of fascinating events happening over the summer also, including Howl Nights (which are awesome) where guests have the opportunity to see the wolves in the evening and hear them howl, something you can’t experience during normal business hours.

Photographer taking pictures of a wolf

Outdoor Art Trail

Are you in to art? Scattered across both Lafayette and West Lafayette are dozens of outdoor art pieces that you can walk around and see. There’s even a handy online map for routing out your own personal trail for the day. More information on the art pieces can be found online to give you some background on what you’re going to go see.

Prophetstown State Park

Not only is this one of Indiana’s newest state parks, it’s also full of fun activities to do this summer. You can hike, ride your bike down the bike trails, camp, or even swim for a small fee in the Family Aquatic Center. Close by is the Farm at Prophetstown, where you can take a tour of a horse-powered farm and learn about agriculture.

…but what if it’s raining?

Raining on Window

There’s still plenty to do around the Lafayette area indoors too!

-Visit some of the area’s art galleries or take an art class (glass working, anyone?)

-Check out the area’s nightlife. Whether you’re a pub or a coffeehouse kind of person there’s something for you. Most places offer live entertainment on Friday or Saturday nights too.

– Love all things vintage? Head to downtown Lafayette and check out all the antique stores on the “Antique Trail”. (Or pop over to the Tippecanoe Mall to completely avoid the rain and shop both vintage and major retailers – the vintage store Hot House Market!)

What are some of your favorite things to do in the Greater Lafayette Area? 

America Saves Week: Thinking About Retirement in College

2 Mar


If you’re in college your retirement might seem like a long way off. And it probably is, assuming you aren’t one of the very few people who become a wildly successful professional athlete and strike it rich early.

Unless you are currently swimming in cash as a college student and free of taking out educational loans, it probably isn’t realistic to be saving for retirement until you get your first post-college job. While now may not be the time to start investing into your retirement, here are three tips to remember as you’re setting up your career, and the rest of your life.


Minimize Debt: Saving for retirement is a lot harder if you’re paying several hundred per month against debt. So think twice (or three times) before accepting the full amount for educational loans that are offered to you and ask yourself if you really need all of it. Once you start working, make a plan to pay down your debt as soon as possible.

An increasingly popular choice for graduates today is to head back to the parents’ nest for a year or two to save money for life on your own. Keep in mind that living with your parents only helps if you use it as a springboard to save, not as an opportunity to free up more spending money.

Career and Employer Choices: When you’re looking into employers and eventually weighing (hopefully) several employment offers, consider more factors than just the dollar signs on the salary. Once you’re off your parents’ healthcare plan on, or before, your 26th birthday you’ll need your own plan, which can be costly if your employer doesn’t offer one.

Additional non-salary factors to consider are moving expenses, cost of living, vacation, and retirement options. Retirement plans where your employer matches your contribution guarantees you a 100% return on investment, not an easy feat investing your money elsewhere. Also keep in mind if you are part of the nearly 50% of Americans who think that Social Security payments will be important in your retirement that they currently average about $14,000 per year.

Start Saving Early: Within your first month of getting paid you might find yourself wondering how anyone can spend this much money, and then within a few weeks wonder where it all went.

A great strategy to start saving early on is to have money automatically deposited into a savings account. It is much easier to adjust to having less right from the start than to save what you have left.

To emphasize the importance of saving consider this scenario of two employees at the same company.

Alice is 25 and starts contributing $100 every month ($1,200 per year) toward retirement. Alice plans to retire at 65 so she has 40 years to save. Sheila also contributes $100 every month, but she waits until she is 30 because life was just too hectic to start saving earlier. What’s the difference in retirement savings at 65? Alice will have saved $310,000 compared to Sheila’s $206,000 – or a difference in over $100,000. Why does this happen? The miracle of compound interest that you once learned about in math class.

Five years is the difference between surviving and thriving in retirement. Your youth is an investing advantage you will never get back.

Remember that it is important to save up for both retirement AND a regular savings. The savings account is there for you when you need money for big purchases, to handle emergencies, etc. without having to use credit cards and lose money on the interest.

America Saves logo

It is important to avoid a mindset of “I’ll start saving when…” It will never be a better time to start. So take the America Saves Week Pledge and start today.


America Saves Week: Tax Time Savings for Students

1 Mar


themed-savingattaxtime-768x384As you’re filling out your taxes, there are a couple of tax deductions that being a college student may have made you eligible for. If you have received either a form 1098-E from a student loan lender or a form 1098-T from your school, be sure to have these on hand when you complete your taxes before April 15th (or hopefully sooner).

Taxes Afraid

1098-E: Given to you by your educational loan servicer, this Student Loan Interest Statement shows how much interest you paid on your student loans in the prior year. If you have been making student loan payments and paid over $600 in interest, you can expect to receive a 1098-E. You will receive one from each different borrower that you have educational loans through allowing you to deduct up to $2,500 in interest!

1098-T: This form is a tuition statement supplied by your university for your taxes. It will show qualified tuition and related expenses, scholarships and grants you have received, whether you have been enrolled at least half time, and if you are a graduate student or not. Entering this information into your taxes can allow you to claim the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You may not receive a 1098-T if all of your tuition and expenses were paid for via scholarships. To find your Purdue 1098-T, log into your myPurdue account! Full instructions are available here.

Learn more about filing your taxes at https://www.irs.gov/


America Saves Week: Pay Off High Interest Debt

28 Feb


The average Class of 2016 college graduate had $37,172 in student loan debt, up 6% from the previous year.  Debt isn’t fun, but education is one of the better reasons to take on debt. While you may not enjoy paying back student educational loans there are some steps you can take to save yourself some money and make your payments hurt a little bit less.



  1. Prioritize high-interest debt: While Federal Direct student loans are capped at 6.8%, private loans are not. Even worse interest rates? Credit cards. If you have credit card debt, prioritize paying it off before your student loans. 6.8% interest is no fun, but credit card interest rates 20% and higher can be crippling.


  1. Income based repayment: If you qualify for an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, do yourself a favor and consider one. Generally if your debt is higher than your income you will probably qualify. Even if you are able to make your payments without much issue, an IBR can still save you money. How? If you keep paying the same amount you did before, you can target your payments toward either your highest interest or smallest loans depending on which repayment style fits you.


Pick your payoff: There are two main methods for paying off debt when you have multiple balances to pay. The snowball and the avalanche method.

The snowball method entails taking the extra money you have and paying off your smallest debts first while paying the minimum on the rest. Then once that is taken care of, you roll that payment into the next smallest and knock off your obligations one-by-one. This is best for those who like the reward of seeing their different loans disappear the quickest and can help you stay on track easier.

The avalanche method is similar to the snowball where you make minimum payments on all loans but one. The difference is that you target the highest interest rates first. While you may not experience the visual rewards of seeing the small debts disappear quicker, you will save the most amount of money in the long run this way.

One way to not repay is by spreading out the extra you pay to all debts and pay a little bit additional on everything each month. This provides neither of the advantages that the avalanche and snowball methods have while still costing you the same amount. You get less savings than the avalanche, and less of the reward that the snowball offers.


America Saves Week: Make Your Savings Automatic

27 Feb


Saving money can be hard to do after taking care of bills, groceries, and general living expenses. This is even harder when your idea of saving money is by counting what’s left over in your checking account after paying those monthly expenses. It’s likely that you will probably just spend what’s left on something for yourself the next month.

While this saving method might work for the rare individual, for most of us we really don’t think about our spending as long as our account stays above a certain number we’ve arbitrarily designated.

The easiest way to create savings and counter our instinct to spend without worry? Save your money automatically.


Saving your money automatically, or as some call it “Pay Yourself First”, is a way to siphon off part of your paycheck every time you’re paid and put it into a savings account before you do anything else. The concept is simple and doing it is quite simple if you are being paid via direct deposit or paycheck. Note: Both of these methods require opening a second bank account if you don’t already have one!

  • Direct Deposit: Let whoever is in charge of your payroll know that you want to add an account for direct deposit. You will need your savings account’s routing number and account number to do this.
  • Paycheck: When you go to deposit your check, you will have to let the bank teller know you would like to deposit some into your savings and the rest into checking. It may not be “saving automatically” this way, but it’ll work better than the old method.


Don’t make it easy to steal from your savings!

The key to this process is not only putting money into savings, but not pulling it out right away. A savings account does no good if you can use an app on your phone and be 3 clicks away from having it right back in your checking account.

If your savings are just a few clicks on an app from being transferred and spent, consider either making it more difficult to access or making yourself wait three days between any plan to withdraw and actually doing it. This should help limit knee-jerk reactions to spend and give you time to properly plan how to use your funds.

While saving money isn’t the most intrinsically rewarding thing you can do, you’ll be glad one day that you put away a small portion of your pay rather than making a couple of extra fast food runs a week.

America Saves Week: Saving for Emergencies in College

26 Feb


Emergency savings aren’t for fun. When you don’t need it, you look at a nice sum in the bank that you could be using for something fun. When you do need it, you’re going through some sort of financial crisis and probably won’t be patting yourself on the back for being prepared.

As a college student you might not have a lot of spare money sitting around, but having some cash set aside is a lot more pleasant than having to ask the Bank of Mom & Dad for funds because you weren’t prepared. Even if you need to ask for some help, you can save a lot of pride if you let them know you’re able to contribute toward whatever emergency you have.

So how much money should a student save for emergencies? There’s no answer to cover everyone other than “it depends”. The best advice is to anticipate what types of emergencies you may need it for. Things like blowing the transmission in your car, unplanned travel to be with a friend, embarrassing personal health situations, or minor legal issues (like tickets) can all be things that you might feel weird asking your parents to help cover. Even asking for help with reasonable things like food and rent can be uncomfortable if they know that you blew the money you were supposed to use.

A good goal is to save around $500 somewhere where you can’t spend it easily, but can access it when you absolutely need it. That might not cover everything, but it’s a good start on most minor situations you will find yourself in.

How do you get that $500 saved up? Here are three ideas:

  1. If you work, funnel a little bit off each paycheckor from your tips to slowly build it up. Just be sure to keep the money safe from yourself so you don’t use it for impulse purchases. If you treat your emergency fund like a bill and pay yourself first, you won’t miss the money.
  2. When your financial aid disbursement comes from extra scholarship, grant, and educational loan money, take out the $500 then and set it aside.
  3. Save up those mini-windfalls you might get from birthdays, tax returns, and holidays.

It might seem like $500 is a lot to save. But it will feel like even more when you have to pay it in a pinch and don’t have it. Whatever your goal is, set it and get after it. Consider making a pledge to save with America Saves Week as extra motivation to get started.

And remember…

Chipotle Car crash

Emergency savings are for emergencies!

Financial Aid February: Aid for the Summer

23 Feb

Financial Aid February

Taking summer courses is a great way to get ahead on credits and graduate earlier. Not to mention utilizing your rent to the fullest if you have a 12 month off-campus lease. However, summer aid is not automatically created for your account when you file the FAFSA. With a few extra steps you can get summer financial aid lined up and have it ready for summer!

How to Apply for Summer Aid for Summer 2018:

Complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) no later than June 30, 2018 and satisfy all additional financial aid requirements listed on your myPurdue account. Note: although you can file the FAFSA as late as June 30, you should file it much earlier in order to have your aid ready for the summer term.

Complete the 2018 Summer Aid Application under the Financial Tab of your myPurdue account. Once your application has been successfully submitted, it could take two to three weeks to receive a Financial Aid award. Please monitor myPurdue for updates. Initial summer financial aid notifications will begin in March.

Quick Info:

Eligibility for your Federal Loans is on an annual basis, with the summer term being part of the aid year for the semesters before it. If you used all of your federal loan eligibility in the Fall/Spring semesters, you will need to utilize other sources of aid for your summer bill.

If you drop hours or do not initiate course participation at any time during the summer sessions, your aid may be adjusted and you may receive a bill.

If this will be your first time taking summer courses, check out the scholarship options at ThinkSummer- Financial Aid!

Think Summer

You can also check out the Bursar’s Office site for current tuition and fee rates. Did you know that, in the summer, you pay the same amount for 6-9 credit hours?

Be sure to notify the Division of Financial Aid if you decide to cancel your summer aid application.

Choose the location you plan to attend for summer 2018 to obtain additional information about how to apply and aid eligibility.

Want more info about summer courses, internships, housing and more? Check out Think Summer.

February is Financial Aid Month: Understanding your Award Notification

16 Feb


If you — as a newly accepted student — applied for financial aid and submitted all verification information that was requested you should expect to receive an award notice from the Purdue Division of Financial Aid (DFA) any time after February 16th.

Understanding Award Notice

A message will be sent to your Purdue.edu email address, which you gain access to by activating your career account. The email notification directs students to view their financial aid offer online in their myPurdue system under the Financial tab. Notifications will also be sent to parents who supplied a parent email address on the FAFSA.

While the first place that your eyes will look is undoubtedly the Free Money section (grants/scholarship), a better place to start is by looking at the estimated Cost of Attendance (COA). The COA is not your bill! Rather, it is an estimate of the costs of being a full-time student and living in West Lafayette for the school year. It also shows the maximum amount of aid you are allowed to receive for the year, not what you ought to be taking. Your actual bill will come from the Bursar Office later in the summer after you’ve signed up for courses. The only costs you will owe Purdue directly are for tuition/ fees, a meal plan (if you have one), and housing costs if you live on campus.

Now that you know that maximum amount of aid you can receive, the free money awaits. If you have any grants or scholarships, they will appear here. If you have an outside scholarship and have not reported it yet, you can do that via your myPurdue. Grants and scholarships are the ideal form of aid since you do not have to pay them back!

If you subtract your gift aid from the Cost of Attendance, you are left with your remaining “Net Cost”. You can look to cover this amount with the “self-help aid”, using money you already have, or a combination of the two. This is the amount you must cover with money you either have now or expect in the future.

The self-help aid section is where any offered educational loans and Federal Work Study (FWS) will show up. While these options aren’t as preferable as free money, they may be a better option for many students/families than trying to pay out of pocket.

It’s important to know that while FWS is a form of financial aid, it does not credit your account like the other forms of aid do! Having FWS may help open up more employer doors on and around campus who will only hire FWS eligible students. The student still needs to find a job and earn the money which is paid via a bi-weekly paycheck. If you don’t work enough hours to receive your entire work study amount, you don’t receive it. Working is a good way to be able to supply yourself with spending money throughout the year, but it is not a reliable way to pay your Purdue bill since you receive FWS wages after the bill is already due.


The other type of self-help aid is the educational loan. Every loan is slightly different, both in interest and in the steps you need to take to receive it. Federal loans typically are preferable to private loans and often offer more flexible repayment options as well.

As you review the award notice and look up different Financial Aid Terms, keep in mind that grants and scholarships are types of gift aid that do not need to be repaid. Loans and work-study are types of self-help financial aid that must be repaid either in money or labor.

COA - EFC = Need

One question that often comes up is where the FAFSA fits into all of this? The FAFSA’s primary job is to create the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which reflects a family’s anticipated financial strength. The formula for financial need is made by subtracting the EFC from the Cost of Attendance. The remaining amount is the maximum amount of need-based aid a student is eligible for. This can be scholarships/ grants with a need requirement, subsidized loans, or Federal Work- Study. It is not guaranteed that your financial need will be filled with need-based aid.

Remember that even if you don’t think you will be eligible for need-based aid, you should still file the FAFSA at https://fafsa.gov as some scholarships have it as one of their requirements!

Helping Students Find Scholarships

2 Feb

When many students hear the word “scholarship,” they mistakenly think it’s something reserved only for a select few. Here’s how you can discover the billions of dollars in scholarships available for individuals just like you.

  1. Complete the FAFSA

Like many other types of aid, a lot of scholarships require a completed FAFSA as part of their application requirements. Students are encouraged to visit fafsa.gov to get the process started.

  1. Secure Letters of Recommendation

A good word from the right source can go a long way in helping students stand out from the crowd when applying for scholarships. Approach teachers, coaches, employers, and advisors for a letter of recommendation at least a month before the application deadline—and be sure to include clear instructions on what’s required.

  1. Write a Unique Essay

A traditional part of the scholarship application, a written essay is a chance to shine a spotlight on an applicant’s unique situation. Take something interesting from your background and make it stand out. For example, have you had to overcome adversity in your life? Were you motivated by an awesome occurrence? It is recommended to have any drafts edited by a teacher or parent before submitting.

  1. Have All Documents Handy

Be aware of the documents you may need to complete any applications, such as high school transcripts, and keep both hard and electronic copies on hand. If not readily available, these documents may take some time to get, so it’s a good idea to get them in order early in the process.

  1. Look Locally

Check for any local scholarship opportunities in your High School guidance office or College financial aid office. Check with area civic organizations, churches, and other philanthropic groups to see what’s available.

  1. Utilize Online Scholarship Searches

There are a variety of websites available featuring extensive lists of scholarships. Here are some examples you can check out:








  1. Apply to Many, Focus on Few

As you dig into your searches, you may notice dozens of “no essay” or sweepstakes-type scholarships. While casting a wide net is good, narrowing the focus to the opportunities that match you best increases your chances of scholarship success.

Source: Help Your Students Find Scholarships, January 5, 2018. In Great Lakes Bulletin, January 9, 2018.  Great Lakes https://schools.mygreatlakes.org/web/FAP/index.html


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