Archive | April, 2015

College Seniors Week 4: Prepping for “Grown-Up” Life

30 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

open road; text overlay: Prepping for "Grown-Up" Life

Does the idea of becoming a real, certified grown-up human being scare anybody? I know it scared me. I felt like once I graduated college I had to start doing (and knowing) a bunch of things that just don’t sound that fun. Even though I made it through college, paid off a car loan and now own that own car, lived on my own for a year, got engaged, and pay for my own things…I didn’t always feel like I was entering the grown-up stage of my life. And everywhere I looked there were constant reminders that “being an adult means making adult decisions.” So, after obsessively reading these lists, I condensed them down into a number of things everyone should be prepared for:

Watch the News

As depressing as the world can be sometimes, you no longer have the excuse of papers and exams interfering with staying informed. You don’t have to be tuned in to CNN and Fox News every second your home and have NPR on…but at least skim the headlines every day and read what interests you. A side effect of staying informed may be mild depression, but give it time, you’ll get used to the adult world soon enough. Staying informed on your local news will also keep you up-to-date on important things like food festivals and technology in the local schools.

…and Watch What You Eat

This doesn’t mean stop eating Doritos or pizza…just maybe stop eating them SO often. Balance your fruits and veggies and make sure to start taking a vitamin. Try to move around regularly too, 30 minutes a day is recommended. But, now is the time to start adapting better health habits: drink water, cut out pop, don’t eat as much sugar, etc. You don’t have to go all Jillian Michaels with a super intense workout regime, just start making small lifestyle adjustments.

Learn to Budget

Grown-up life comes with grown-up bills and you don’t want to fall behind on those. Creating a budget, and sticking to it, is a great way to make sure you know where all of your money is going. You can download some really cool apps on your smartphone to help keep track of you money on the go too.

Stick to a Schedule

Once you get a job after college you’ll be expected to show up EVERY day. You can’t skip because it’s raining, snowing, or you stayed out too long last night. You’ll be away from your home for at least 8 hours every day with no time to nap or do laundry in the middle of the day. You’ll have to learn to prioritize your spare time to get everything done that you need to outside of work and to make time for free time on the weekend. I know, scheduling free time sounds awful, but it’s necessary when you’ve got a lot on your plate.

Clean & Do Laundry Regularly

This goes along the same lines as a schedule. Keep your place clean because nobody else is going to do it for you. You can get away with a grimy bathroom in college because you’re a college student, but once you’re an adult you just look lazy and dirty. You’ll need to keep your clothes clean too because that’s expected when you’re a professional and you can’t wear sweats to work when you run out of nice clothes.

Dress Like a Grown-Up

And make sure you look like an adult at work. It’s the only way to gain any respect and move up the ladder.

High School Seniors Week 4: You’ve Picked a College…Now What?!

27 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

clock; text overlay: You've Picked A College...Now What?!

Get excited! Your future awaits you! Take some time to absorb the good feelings after months of stress and financial aid inquiries and balancing senior activities on top of preparing for college. Then, get down to business.

Enjoy Your Last Month of High School!

You only go to high school once. Enjoy being in the same hallways with the same people for a few more weeks and knowing nearly everybody you’re in class with because unless you’re going to a very small college, that will never happen again. I know my high school has a lot of silly senior traditions, and even if they seem silly, participate! You only get to do them once. Pick out a nice outfit for graduation too. You’ll be taking pictures, and they’ll last forever.

Research Your University

Look into some specifics: Where will you live? Do you need to do/register/pay for anything else before you can officially become a (insert school mascot here)? Know what is expected of you before you enroll. Getting all set up way in advance is a good idea because you’ll have enough to worry about with moving out of your parents’ house and into a dorm without having to find a room last minute. Make sure any and all fees and deposits are paid so this transition from high school to college is as smooth as can be.

Make Sure You’re Happy with the Major You’ve Chosen

Changing majors is a really common occurrence with college students. You’re likely to change your major at least once in your undergraduate career. Take a few moments to sit back and make sure you’re still happy with your choice for your first year of college. Chances are that you’re completely satisfied, but it’s been almost six months since you applied, you could have changed your mind. And, if changing your major sounds like something you’d like to do, get in contact with your university and see what steps need to be taken in order to make the switch and any impacts that could have on any scholarships you received. Don’t jump into it right away though; mull it over before making the call.

College Seniors Week 3: Where Do You Live?

23 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Road Map; Text Overlay: Where Do You Live After Graduation?

All you have to do is Google the phrase “housing after college” to instantly become terrified of where you’ll be living after college. According to this article by Jordan Weissman, the percentage of college students who were living with family after college in 2011 was 45%. As if you weren’t worried enough about what’s to come after college, now you have to think about moving back in (or in my case continue to live with…) mom and dad?! Calm down… You may be part of the 55% that doesn’t have to! But either way, here are some things to consider:

…what about your college apartment?

If you’re already locked into a lease until the start of the next school year, then you may be able to stay where you are. You won’t have financial aid to help pay your bills, but you could pick up a part-time position around campus for the summer to make ends meet. If you’re not able to stick around for the summer (you’ve got a job or mom really wants you to come home), then you might want to start looking into a subletter. Lots of freshmen who lived in the dorms take summer classes and they’ll be looking for a place to live especially if your university doesn’t offer dorm housing for the summer. Make sure to check with any roommates first to see if they’re okay with someone else living in your room for three months. And if they’re iffy on it, remind them that Jess from New Girl was a stranger before she moved into her apartment and now they’re all best friends. Advertise in your local newspaper, your campus newspaper, Craigslist, and any community Facebook pages to find a subletter.

…would living with mom & dad be that bad?

This is really a personal decision that you have to face on your own. But, it’s something you should think about because it could save you a lot of money, especially if you’re looking for a job. Weigh the pros and cons and decide if saving money now could benefit you in the long run. If you’re working an interim job right now, moving back home may be a good option if you’re not sure where you’re going to end up living. And, may be you can create a better relationship with your parents before you move out for good.

…where are you planning to move to? Can you afford it now?

If you have the means to move to your dream location right now, then by all means go for it! Not everybody has the ability to pack up and chase their dreams, but if you are then get out there and get yourself established so you can start living your dreams. Scout out some companies you’re interested in and figure out what you’re going to do until you can find that dream job. If you can’t afford moving at the moment, but it’s your dream to live somewhere big like New York City or Los Angeles, maybe move back in with mom and dad or get additional roommates to save some dough until you can be on your own. No shame in saving for your dream.

The most important thing to remember is to be realistic. You can’t run off and live in a penthouse in New York City Gossip Girl-style. But, you maybe able to move to Jersey and ride the train into your first job in the city until you move your way up the ladder or land a better gig. And if you end up at home for awhile… So what? So do 45% of college grads.

Let’s Talk Credit Scores

22 Apr

*This blog ran earlier this year, but we decided to post it again for Money Smart Week*

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Here at MyMoney our goal is financial literacy. We want to teach students and our readers how to be smarter with their money and that makes the topic of credit kind of taboo. You see, credit talks about your relationship with debt: how much of it you have currently, how much you’ve paid off, how good you are at paying back your debt, what kinds of debt you have. We don’t want you to be in debt, but we do want you to be informed. And, since the average college student graduates with at least $20k in student loan debt, you should know how that affects you.

Girl in airport; text overlay: Let's Talk Credit Scores

Here’s the basic breakdown of what makes up a credit score, via wikiHow:

Payment history — 35%. How often do you pay your bills on time? Late payments hurt your score.

Debt usage — 30%. How much debt do you have in relation to your overall limit? Low debt and high limits is what you’re after.

Credit age — 15%. How long have you been establishing your credit? The longer the better.

Account mix — 10%. How many accounts or lines of credit do you have open? The more the better.

Inquiries — 10%. How often do you apply for new credit? Too many inquiries can hurt your score.

These are all taken into consideration and then get applied to a scale, typically between 300 and 850. You want to aim to have at least a good credit score, usually between 700 and 749. Go here for a breakdown of what the different levels of credit scores mean.

Your credit score is important for your future financial and personal prospects. Say one day you want to buy a house; the easiest way to buy a home is to take out a mortgage, and while paying the balance in cash sounds nice, it’s just not feasible for most people. And to get a good rate on that mortgage, you need a good credit score. This is probably all you’ve ever heard on the subject, with the exact same example (because it’s a good example). Now, how do you make sure you have a good credit score? Or better yet, how do you keep from having a bad credit score?

#1 Pay your bills on time

Every single one of them. Every time they are due. While you’re in college you can practice with your cell phone,  utilities, and rent. Then, consider a credit card that you use for only very specific things (gas, perhaps) and pay that off on time, every time the payment is due. Once you’ve graduated, make sure you don’t default on your student loans (i.e. make your payments on time, every time).

#2 Budget your money

But…what does that have to do with credit? Everything. If you’re not budgeting your debts (e.g. car payment, rent, utilities, student loan payment), then you’ll fall behind on your payments and your credit will start creeping downhill. Remember that credit card I mentioned in #1? Don’t use it for unbudgeted expenses (with the exception of it being a serious crisis like emergency roadside assistance that’s not covered by your car insurance, not when you desperately need a latte). Only spend what you have available to spend and can pay off at the end of the month.

#3 Minimize your debt

Take out the minimum amount of student loans you need. Don’t use a credit card on things you don’t need. Save up for a big down payment on your next car purchase so your payments are lower and you’re able to make them on time. Keep it small so that it’s manageable and you can still pay your bills on time. Don’t take on excess debt. You’re in college, live like a college student now so you can live the way you want once you are debuted to the world.

#4 Keep an eye on your credit score

You can check out your credit score for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can check it every three months by using each one once a year or you can check them all at once and compare (they may be slightly different). Watching your credit score will let you in on any changes that happen. Your credit score may go down some if you missed a credit card payment, majorly if you have unpaid medical bills, or drastically if your identity is stolen. On the plus side, if you’re managing your credit wisely you may see it gradually increase over time. And then you can credit yourself with the independence and security it brings!

High School Seniors Week 3: First Year Housing Hunt

20 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

wood floor; text overlay: First Year Housing Hunt

Not all housing options are Elle Woods-style sorority houses or the run-down apartments in which Rory Gilmore finished her years at Yale. And not all dorms are co-ed; you can find one where you won’t be confronted by the opposite sex in the shower room every day. There’s also the option of living off-campus in a house or apartment with 3 of your closest friends, but only if you start your hunt soon because they can fill up fast. Living at home with mom and dad (and siblings and high school drama and Fido) is always an option if you’re near your campus as well.

Residence Halls

Residence halls are like the rooms you see the kids at Hogwarts living in: a common room flanked by bedroom spaces. Except, usually, instead of sharing a room with your entire class year (or Neville Longbottom) you get to share a room with 0-3 people, and you may or may not have your own private bathroom. There’s not a one-size-fits-all motto with college dorms either. There’s a variety of sizes and amenities to choose from: single, double, triple, suite, air-conditioned, non-air-conditioned, private bathroom, shared bathroom, co-ed res hall, same-sex res hall…the list can go on and on. If you decide to live on-campus in a residence hall, then you have to choose which style of room is right for you (and your wallet). Singles tend to run more price-wise than doubles or triples. Some residence halls are nicer than others and have more amenities, so they typically cost more, even if it’s for the same size room.

Residence halls also tend to have the built-in meal plan options, a nice bonus because you can just walk to your meals at the dining court and not have to make them or clean up after them.

Off-Campus

Off-campus housing can consist of apartments, rental houses, sororities, fraternities, and any cooperative housing your university may have. Freshmen typically don’t live in fraternities and sororities their first semester, so we’ll focus on apartments and rental houses here. The nice thing about an apartment or rental house is that you can have more space than in a residence hall (maybe even a pet?) and you don’t have as many restrictions; Purdue freshmen who live on campus, for example, are not allowed to have a car on campus (unless they win a parking pass lotto), but you could have one at your apartment if you went that route. Apartment and house rental prices can vary greatly depending on the location to campus, the amenities offered, and the number of people in the apartment/house.  Since your rent and food costs aren’t billed through the school, so you would have to practice your budgeting skills: paying rent every month, paying bills, and buying your own groceries.

If you plan on living in an apartment your first year, you may miss out on some of the dorm bonding your peers have, but part of that bonding comes from close quarters which you may be able to live without.

Home with Mom and Dad

Living at home can save you money, and loan debt, in the long run if you’re able to do it… BUT some would view it as a restriction on their personal freedoms in college because they’re still in their childhood bedroom under their parents roof, sometimes with younger siblings (or three, in my case), and still subject to work around their family’s schedule. You’ll also be subject to parking restrictions and/or the bus system at your university, but you’ll be able to save up for a new car now instead of scrimping for more Cup-O-Noodles. It can be tough, it has been sometimes in my experience, but if you don’t mind and you want to save yourself from getting into unnecessary debt, then I’d say give it a shot.

And if the option you choose doesn’t work out, you can always try something different next year. You’ve got four years ahead of you, plenty of time to test the different housing options.

Money Smart Week

17 Apr

Money Smart Week April 18-25

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Staff from Purdue University’s Division of Financial Aid and the Indiana Council for Economic Education, along with multiple local entities, will be participating in a state and national effort to present more than 3,500 free financial programs during Money Smart Week on April 18-25.

More information about local offerings is available online by going to http://www.moneysmartweek.org/findevents and then searching under Indiana-Tippecanoe County.

Money Smart Week is a public awareness campaign to promote financial education across all age groups. Launched in 2002 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the program is now active in more than 45 states through national partnerships with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension, and the American Library Association.

“Money Smart Week began as a coordinated effort among a small group of Chicago-area organizations working to promote financial literacy,” said Alejo Torres, senior outreach manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “Today, Money Smart Week continues to expand nationally, providing greater awareness of, and access to, personal finance resources for all.”

Money Smart Week events are open to the public at businesses, financial institutions, schools, libraries, nonprofits and government agencies throughout the country on topics including kids and money, unemployment, managing student debt, and retirement. To learn more, visit http://www.moneysmartweek.org

College Seniors Week 2: Paying Your Student Loans

16 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

man jumping off dock; Text overlay: Paying Your Student Loans

Yikes! This is a scary topic, especially with student loan debt being broadcasted all over the news. Student loan payments can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re still on the JOB HUNT.  I’ve gone ahead and summarized some important information to know about your loans as well as some really helpful links to help you through the repayment process.

Grace Periods

If you have Stafford Loans and have stayed enrolled at least half-time (6 credit hours for undergrads and 4 credit hours for grads) for your entire college career, you will have your full grace period of six months before you are expected to start paying on those loans. If you have a Subsidized Stafford Loan, depending on when you took out your loans, they may start to accrue interest during this grace period. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans have accrued the entire time you’ve had them and will continue to during your grace period and beyond until they are paid off.

Grace periods for Perkins Loans are nine months, as long as you have remained continuously enrolled at half-time status during your entire college career.

Grace periods for private loans vary per lender, so you will want to check with your loan servicer to determine when you are expected to start making payments on them.

 Interest Rates

Stafford Loan interest rates have been changing a lot recently; they’ve gone down this past year (2013-2014) thanks to Obama signing the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. But, this also means you could have multiple Stafford Loans with different interest rates. You can log into your student loan account at the National Student Loan Database to check on your loans, their interest rates, and to see your loan servicer.
Perkins Loans have a 5% set interest rate.

Private Loans have variable or set interest rates, depending on your lender. You’ll want to check with the lender to see what your interest rate is currently and if it’s subject to change.

Repayment 

The biggest thing you need to know about your loans at this point? You need to repay them. I’d suggest starting at here. This website has a lot of helpful information:

Repayment Options: the different types, and what applies to you

Loan Consolidation: how to do it, can you do it

Making Payments: where to go, who you pay

Deferment & Forbearance: are you eligible, what to do

 

There’s a lot of information floating around about student loans these days, so set aside some time and actually do some research in figuring out what the best repayment options are for you. You have to pay them back, and you may be paying on them for the next few years, so you may as well know what’s expected of you.

High School Seniors Week 2: Understanding Financial Aid

13 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

what is financial aid - open road

Financial Aid can be a tough concept to understand: financial = money, aid = help… So it’s free money that colleges give you to pay for your school, right? Well, kind of. Some forms of financial aid can be free money other forms of financial aid you will have to pay back.

The first step in getting financial aid is to file a FAFSA, and filing it on time. Filing your FAFSA on time is especially important so you are eligible for more types of financial aid, meaning state aid (if you’re a resident of the state where you attend college) and university aid. Once the universities you have been accepted to receive your FAFSA, they will be able to put together a financial aid award for you and calculate your estimated financial aid awards.

Financial aid consists of two main types of financial aid: gift aid and self-help aid.

Gift Aid

This refers to all scholarships and grants, or, to put it more simply, all the types of aid that you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships can be need or merit-based and students can get them from various sources. Typically, students receive scholarships either from their university or from a private donor. There are websites such as www.scholarships.com and www.fastweb.net to help students find all kinds of private scholarships. There are some pretty obscure scholarships out there, so if you look hard enough, you may even find one that fits your eccentric hobbies.

For information on grants and scholarships available to Purdue students, please visit our website.

Self-Help Aid

This type of aid consists of loans and Federal Work Study. Loans are the most common type of self-help aid; they’re also the only type of financial aid that really makes it on the news. Students are expected to pay back their student loans once they have graduated and depending on what type of loan you take, there may be interest accruing on it while you’re in school. Federal Student Loans consist of Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans. Parents may also have the option of taking out a Parent PLUS Loan to help cover any remaining costs that the student has; Parent PLUS loans are taken out in the parent’s name, so the parent is the one who is expected to pay them back. Students also have the option of taking out private student loans, which are loans they apply for through a third-party lender and are then sent to their college.

It’s important to remember that ALL LOANS HAVE TO BE PAID BACK, so always try to borrow as little as possible so you aren’t burdened with huge loan payments once you graduate college.

This may seem like a bit of a dry topic, but it is so important. Take some time and learn all you can so you’re well-informed on the financial aid you’re receiving and make sure you know what’s expected of you in order to keep the aid you get.  If this article did not answer all your burning questions make sure you do not assume an answer… give your college’s financial aid office a call.

College Seniors Week 1: Applying for Jobs

9 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Computer keyboard and mouse; text overlay: College Senior Job Search Tips

Graduation is only five weeks away guys, it’s crunch time. Many of us will be going off to join the work force; some already have jobs lined up, while another group will be continuing their educations in grad schools. Keep in mind, that it is important to be optimistic, but also realistic about the future. The job market is a scary place for graduating students, and with student loan payments looming on the horizon, you’ll need to keep your eyes and your mind open to new possibilities.

Where to Start

Purdue students and Purdue alumni are fortunate enough to have the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) to help get their searches started. Even if you’re not at Purdue, here’s some good information for utilizing your college career center. Make an appropriate resume; you’re applying for a professional position, so you need to be professional. Potential employers first meet you on paper, so even though you may have a great personality in person; you need to show your skills on paper.

Finding Something You’re Interested In

Have you made it through your four years and haven’t pinpointed exactly what you want to do yet? Don’t know what field speaks to you the most? That’s okay! While you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, go out and network. All you have to do is talk: let people know who you are, what you like, and have an elevator pitch prepared. And if you’re under an extreme time crunch and just need to get a job to get the bills paid, continue exploring what you want to do after you’ve gotten the job you need right now. You may not find something in your field right away, but if you put in the time and effort, you will find the right job eventually.

Location

Be realistic about this one… Not everyone is able to pack up and move to New York City to pursue their dream job the day after graduation. You may have to move back in with your parents and work in your hometown until you find something in your field. But you should know where you want to go. If you want to make it to New York City, start your search for jobs exclusively there and find a group of roommates you can share a tiny apartment with somewhat-comfortably. If you want to stay closer to home and you’re from a smaller town, you may have a smaller pool for potential employers. If you’re open to moving anywhere, you’ve just opened your potential job opportunities exponentially because you’ll go wherever the job takes you (maybe to one of the ‘Best Cities for New College Grads in 2013’). Another possibility would be to look into online work/freelancing if you’re not sure where you want to move.

What job search tips do you have for our graduating seniors? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

High School Seniors Week 1: Choosing A College

6 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

HS Seniors Week 1

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into the top 5 colleges of your dreams! Your future is bright and many good things will come in your future…the typical fortune cookie stuff. But, how do you choose which college will be graced by your presence?

High school seniors headed off to earn their Bachelor’s degrees have about a month to make this decision…and it’s a big one. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a college including, but not limited to: financial aid offers, location, major/program, and personal/lifestyle preferences.

Financial Aid Offers

With a lot of students, the final decision comes down to the money. And with student loan debt rising each year, this is a very responsible way to choose your college. It’s important to sit down with your family and hash out what they, realistically, can help you with and what you as the student are going to be expected to pay.  Remember, college is a four or five year investment, so think long-term financing; not just the first year. This is a tough conversation to have, any conversation about money always is, but it’s an important one.

Location, Location, Location

This can be a BIG factor in where you go to college, and you probably already thought this one over when you were applying to schools. How far away is too far? Or on the flip side, how close is too close? Some students like the idea of being able to go home every other weekend, while others are okay with going home just for breaks. Don’t try to be tough about it, if you like to be around your family then stay near home (and maybe even live at home)! But, if you like your space and you’re okay with having your family 1,000 miles away then go and be free! We homebodies envy you.

Major/Program

It’s really important that the college you attend has a program you’re actually interested in pursuing. While it may tempting to apply to that college because your BFF is going there or they have really awesome-looking housing or you may run into a celebrity there, the real reason you’re going to college is to learn and get your degree. If you’ve already made sure that all of your top picks have your major/program, then be sure to research and compare them. Look into their rankings, job placement percentages, faculty, and classes offered. And if you’re interested in a specific concentration, make sure they have that too. Purdue’s Computer Science program, for example, has a variety of “tracks” for students to choose from when pursuing their degree allowing students to focus in more narrowly on what they’re interested in, a good option for students who have a specific interest.

Personal/Lifestyle Preferences

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before… But there is a big difference between a big school and a small school, a rural school and an urban school, a liberal arts school and a STEM school. If you like access to museums and art and culture, then a rural school may not be your best choice but if you want access to the outdoors and hiking trails, then a rural school may be perfect. Most schools, like Purdue, don’t necessarily fit perfectly into these few categories (besides, BIG!) but they can have a bit of everything. Look into what each school has that matters to you: How many people go to this school? What are the average class sizes? How big are sports? Do you have access to the local community or is campus off by itself?

 

You know what you like better than anybody, and you’re going to be at your college of choice for four years, you need to make sure you’re making a reasonable choice for you.

%d bloggers like this: