Archive | October, 2017

Preparing for Your First Indiana Winter Pt. 1

24 Oct

The leaves on the trees are starting to change and that means a few things in order of awesomeness: Halloween is coming, pumpkin spice fever is in full pitch, and winter is coming. For all of the amazing things that autumn has, it always means winter is next. For those who are encountering their first winter that will be fraught with freezing temps and snow, the winter can be daunting. However, there is plenty of fun to be had if you’re not shivering the whole time!preparing for indiana winter portrait.jpg

If you have looked into building a cold winter wardrobe from scratch already, you’ve probably realized it’s not cheap. The keys are knowing what you actually need, how to find it cheap, and where you can’t cut corners. The only real difference between the locals who can shrug off the cold and those who freeze is in how well you prepare! Oh, and experience winter driving too but that can’t really be bought.

Remember, winter is long and you’ll probably be spending four of them here throughout college. A few timely purchases now can save you a whole lot of misery over the long haul.

The biggest key is layering. You might hear that over and over again, but it means a whole lot more than just tossing on a jacket and calling it good. The key to good layering is being able to remove what you don’t need when the time comes. We’ll start at the feet and work our way up:

Socks & shoes: Sorry, but flip-flops are going to go the way of the dino during the winter. Depending on how cold it is, you might be able to get away with a normal pair of socks and boots. However, as it gets colder you might want to toss on some thick wool socks underneath your footwear. If it is slushy out or there will be snow on the ground, wear some waterproof boots! If you don’t, you’ll regret it the first time you step in a puddle and walk around with soggy feet all day. Just remember not to over-do it on a day that’s not cold because sweaty feet in wool socks aren’t fun either. If you’re buying boots, select a pair that’s a little large because you’ll be wearing thick socks underneath.CYdHHksWAAA47bO.jpg

Pants: Typically just tossing on jeans or another pair of pants will do it. If it’s a colder day, wearing tights or leggings underneath your pants will help immensely – and no one can tell if you’re worried about that. Going to be stuck outside for an extended period in extreme cold? Layering leggings, jeans & sweats will keep you from being too miserable. Just keep in mind you’ll be very warm when you get inside.

Torso: You’ll have the most freedom here, but it’s also one of the most important areas. Tossing on sweaters, hoodies, vests & anything else you need can make you look fashionable and keep you warm. Big bonus is that you can take them off once you’re inside if you need. On top of all this, it’s all about the jacket you buy. Once autumn starts to fade, your fleece and other light jackets are going to go to the back of the closet. You’re going to want a heavy coat. There are tons and tons of options on what you do here depending on your style. Just remember that two of the biggest factors in staying warm are the material the coat is made of and how much air that it can trap. The more air, the more cushion between you and the cold.photo-1425100599170-85ec4f00a6ee.jpg

Others: Having a hat, scarf and gloves will make a world of a difference. Feeling your ears slowly freeze while walking to class is no one’s idea of a good day, so wear a cap! Maybe you have a family member who knits who can make one for Christmas. I personally didn’t start wearing a scarf until my last year of college and know I have no idea how I survived until then. It keeps wind from blowing down the front of your jacket, gives you a place to bury your face if it hurts to breath and can even provide another place for your favorite knitter to give you a gift! For your hands, mittens are going to be warmest but renders your hands basically useless. Personally, I wear a pair of string knit gloves and keep thick mittens in my pockets. That way I have the best of both worlds ready if I need.

Now how to find all of these cheap? Maybe you have a crafty friend or family member who can help you out?  If not you’ll probably have to buy them. One method is not relying solely on brand names. Your hat, gloves, and scarf don’t really matter too much where you get them from. However, for boots and your winter coat these can make a big difference. You can probably find a good selection of winter coats at various thrift stores as these are an often-donated item. Boots you’re probably going to have to buy new. Don’t be afraid to check out cheaper department stores for these.

Whether you’re a local who loves winter, or a transplant from a tropical paradise anyone can enjoy it if you’re bundled up properly!

Be sure to check out more tips in part two!

If you have any comments or advice, be sure to leave them in the comments.

Grad School Series: Letters of Recommendation

18 Oct

As part of the application process, you’ll need to submit letters of recommendation. You can help your recommendation letter providers write effective and timely letters by following the guidelines below:

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  • Choose recommendation providers who can attest to your potential as a graduate student. Ask if they would be willing to write you a good recommendation letter.
  • Coach your recommendation providers. Try to select recommendation providers who can talk about various aspects of your potential and suggest to them what they could highlight. For example, a research advisor could talk about specific research skills while a professor could talk about your academic potential. This prevents you from having three generic recommendation letters. Most recommendation providers appreciate knowing what they should discuss in their letters.
  • Read any requirements for an acceptable recommendation provider. Most graduate programs expect at least two of your letters to come from faculty.
  • Make the process as easy as possible. Provide your recommendation providers with:
    • a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae
    • a file that lists all of the institutions, program names, contact information, and application deadlines to which you are applying
    • a list of details they will need to answer specific questions about you
    • a friendly reminder of approaching deadlines

Remember to send a thank you note to all of your recommendation letter providers!

Good luck!

It’s Almost Halloween

18 Oct

The air is starting to crisp up with that familiar combination of cool air and pumpkin spice everything. Halloween, possibly the best holiday as a college student, isn’t far away. There’s a lot of different directions you can take your costume for the spookiest of all holidays: some opt to just shell out for a pre-made costume from a store or online, other will get crafty and make matching costumes with their squad, and then there’s some people who simply throw on a flannel and claim they are a lumberjack.

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Depending on which direction you decide to go, you can balance having an awesome costume and not blowing your candy cash on something you’re going to wear once.

If you opt to go the route of buying a costume from a store, there’s a few ways to make it work in your favor. One is that the costumes are going to be reusable, so when Breakfast Club or future Halloweens come along you can just toss that on again and not have to worry about it. Bonus points if you find something you can add a few different accessories on to and make it a whole new costume! This option will cost the most at first but if you commit to reusing it then you’re at least able to try and get your money’s worth out of it.

If you’re the DIY or crafty type, there’s a whole world of possibilities out there. Some people can make the shower loofah for a whole group or one of a ton of other possibilities. If you’ve got the time and are willing to put in effort, then jumping on Pinterest or one of a million Buzzfeed lists will score you some pretty great ideas to start on.

Thrift stores can be your best friend come Halloween time. It’s tough to know what you’ll actually find there but with any imagination you can see how a leather jacket turns into a biker outfit, some Adidas gear can make you look very Russian, or even a cheap suit for something business-ey. While going in looking for one specific thing might not work out, looking at the racks and coming up with ideas on the fly can yield some pretty great results.

For those who are putting something together last-minute or with the absolute minimum level of effort, you’re probably going to be using what’s immediately available to you. Got some plain sheets? Boom, one YouTube video on toga tying and you’re set. Flannel and jeans? You can be one of many lumberjacks who forgot how soon Halloween comes up. Red bandanna and a yellow shirt becomes Hulk Hogan real quick. Got the same yellow shirt plus some overalls? You’re one set of circular glasses from being a minion.

Some of the best ones in this category are shockingly low-effort puns like a chicken cord-on-bluelife giving lemons, or even a blessing in disguise. This is only limited by your ability to make anyone understand it in one sentence.

A few tips for anyone, regardless of which costume style you opt for:

  • Make sure it’s reasonably comfortable: squirming all night because you’ve got a set of wings on your back that’s 20 pounds isn’t going to be fun for you or anyone around you.
  • Commit to the bit: No one is going to look at you and give you extra points because you didn’t try very hard (unless it’s a killer pun). So if you’re dressing up, try to make it perfect! Make your whole costume work together. Hair and make-up (even for guys when it helps the costume) can turn a costume from just a t-shirt into the real deal.
  • Be careful with your skin: As someone who once painted half their body for a costume, I implore you to be careful about anything that’s either applied or adhered to your skin. Tape and adhesives can leave annoying rashes as well as the pain from having to remove it. Anything that can’t be removed easily with some make-up remover might be better off avoided.

 

6 Student-Suggested Classes to Fill Your Schedule

12 Oct

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It’s that time of the year. Your advisors are sending you emails (and then reminder emails) to stop in and have your advising appointment with them. While there are going to be some very specific classes to take, there are other areas where you have some options to fill a requirement for generals or for your college’s core curriculum. Rather than slogging through a semester with courses that aren’t specific to your major and you don’t enjoy, you might as well see what other students suggest right?

While we’ve written about options for class schedule fillers a couple of times before, it’s a question that comes up often. Plus the best suggestions might not fit in your schedule around the classes you absolutely have to take that semester, so having a few options ready only helps.

So here’s 6 suggestions from fellow students on the best classes to take:

EAPS 106 – Geosciences in Cinema:

Learn about some of the most interesting things that nature has to throw at you like tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquakes and then watch movies about them. As a plus, this may count as your lab science!

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PSY 200 – Introduction to Cognitive Psychology:

A course suggestions that came up several times, Cognitive Psych comes in as a course that’s entertaining and engaging even to non-Psych majors. The lectures were said to be entertaining and that there were several fun guest speakers as well.

PHIL 110 – Introduction to Philosophy:

While this was noted to not be the easiest course available, the student who suggested this course said it was an incredibly engaging course both with the material and the other students. Great for those with a previous foundation in logical reasoning.

SOC 100 – Introduction to Sociology:

In addition to positive reviews overall, this course was mentioned as being one that is still good even when it’s delivered online. That’s a major plus if you’re looking at adding it on to a schedule that’s irregular with labs overlapping normal times or you’re taking it by itself in the summer or Maymester.

FS 591/ HORT 590 – Commercial Grape & Wine Production:

Whether you took the wine appreciation class (FS 470) or just want to go a step further, FS 591 explores both grape growing and wine production with an emphasis on the varieties that thrive in the Midwest. The real fun here is that you get the opportunity to grow your own grapes, smash and ferment them, then finally taste a wine that’s completely of your own making. It’s hard to beat putting theory to practice in such a fun way.

EAPS 301 – OIL!:

The course has a mixture of homework, quizzes and tests but the real quality is that the professor is incredibly passionate about the subject and is helpful in making sure the students understand the subject. Not much more you can ask for in a general course!

MET 349 – Stringed Instrument Design and Manufacture:

One of the more interesting courses available is MET 349 that has a central task of designing and then building an electric guitar. You’ll work on the project throughout the semester and have a finished guitar at the end as long as you do everything properly.

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Grad School Series: Statement of Purpose

11 Oct

Because your Statement of Purpose is an important part of your graduate school application, you will want to make sure it is well written. If you haven’t completed your Statement of Purpose yet, the following exercise will help you customize your Statement of Purpose by highlighting your relevant experience and focusing on why you wish to pursue a graduate degree.

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Now is the perfect time to finish your first draft of your Statement of Purpose and bring it in for review at your college’s career office to get it prepared for submitting!

Please note that these are general guidelines applicable to most programs. You should always follow the specific instructions of the department you are applying to.

  1. First, list 2-3 qualities unique to your program of interest. Identify interdisciplinary opportunities and areas of specialization. What are the available academic, research and training facilities that will assist you in pursuing your degree?
  2. Next, name the faculty that interest you and briefly identify their research projects.
  3. Then, in 3-4 sentences, describe your research interests. Follow this by explaining how your professional goals can be achieved by pursuing your research interests in your program of choice.
  4. Mention the unique qualities and faculty members you identified in steps 1 and 2; show how they coincide with your interests.

    Enhance your statement by considering the following:

    • Have you had experience outside the classroom? If so, describe it in detail. Be sure to mention how it will help you in graduate school.
    • Do you have any challenges that you would like to explain to the Admissions Committee (e.g., poor grades in a given semester, a low standardized test score, etc.)? Don’t dwell on anything negative, but sum up the situation in a sentence or two and explain what you learned from it. Show how you have since improved or realized success.
    • Showcase your abilities. As a graduate student, what will you be able to contribute to your graduate program? Give evidence of your strong work ethic, mention jobs held or organizations supported while earning a high GPA. Give concrete examples. Be illustrative.
    • If providing a resume or curriculum vitae (CV), don’t hesitate to reference it, but do not restate all of its contents in your statement of purpose. For example you could say

      “As you’ll note in my enclosed CV, I have received several academic honors, which include the Young Investigator award at Institution X. Receiving this award was a shining moment for me as it served as recognition for long nights in the lab researching tomato viral stains.”

      After this sentence you should describe your research. Remember that you’re telling a story, not simply listing a multitude of facts.

Some additional quick tips:

  • Pay very close attention to the directions as they vary across institutions and programs.
  • Be unique. Talk about interesting and relevant experience. One way to do this is to talk about a subject in your field about which you are passionate.
  • Write with skill. The Statement of Purpose may be the only writing sample you provide, so editing and organization are imperative. Be sure that you proofread your statement and have others, such as professors, teaching assistants, advisors, and peers read it. Ask for constructive feedback as well.
  • Be clear and specific. Instead of providing broad generalizations such as “my research internship provided valuable experience,” write, “By transcribing interview protocols and coding the data, I gained a deeper understanding of how teenage mothers make attributions.”
  • Give yourself enough time to write the Statement of Purpose, to get feedback from a variety of people, and to make the necessary revisions.
  • Be yourself; avoid using too much jargon and too many big words that aren’t a part of your day-to-day vocabulary.

While writing the Statement of Purpose can be a daunting task, engaging in this exercise can help you identify the most important elements you will want to include. Please note, however, that this exercise is based off of general guidelines. Your program may request additional information or recommend an alternative exercise to writing your Statement of Purpose. You should always defer to the instructions provided by your prospective program.

For instructions on writing your Statement of Purpose for Purdue University, visit the Admission Web page. Good luck!

Grad School Series: Staying Organized

4 Oct

Different requirements, different deadlines, and different procedures make applying to a variety of graduate programs challenging. Staying on top of everything is crucial to making sure you don’t miss anything important.Staying Organized Grad Schl.jpg

The Purdue University Graduate School is happy to share a few tips for organizing your application materials.

Create a separate file for each institution to which you apply. In that file, keep:

  • a checklist of the application requirements and contact information for both your program of interest and the graduate school. For many institutions, you may have to provide information to both offices.
  • a copy of your final application, along with the confirmation message you receive after successfully submitting your application.
  • a copy of your statement of purpose, along with other supplemental writing or work samples you submit.
  • copies of requests to have your transcripts and standardized test scores submitted to each institution.
  • a record of anyone you contact by email or phone and what you talked about.

Be sure to verify that everything has arrived to the places where you are applying before the application deadline.

For more information on how to apply to the Purdue University Graduate School, check out the Admissions Web page. Best of luck during the application process and beyond.

Repayment for May Grads Begins in November

3 Oct

All information on repayment plans is from this article by David Evans, Ph. D.
Additional info added by Casey Doten, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator

Most student loans begin repayment six months after the student leaves school. With November coming up quickly, now is the perfect time to review your repayment options and set up your payment plan before the first payment comes due!

There are two main types of repayment plans you can choose from: traditional and income-driven. For borrowers that will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven plans may be the better option. Income-driven plans will require an annual verification of income. This fact sheet describes each of the repayment plans as well as pros and cons of each. For more information about each of the repayment plans visit the Federal Student Aid website.

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Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Summary

Federal student loans offer various ways for repayment. If you are in a situation (like so many others who have taken out student loans) that is not ideal for standard repayment of your loan, consider these options. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to decide which repayment plan to choose. Using the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can help you make your decision by showing you what your payments would be under each of the plans described above.

*A note about loan forgiveness: There are two different kinds of loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and loan forgiveness from your income-driven repayment plan ending. While both plans require you to be enrolled in an income-driven plan to reap the benefits there are some key differences:
-PSLF requires being employed at a qualifying employer in public service (non-profits, government, etc.) for 10 years/ 120 qualifying payments before forgiveness takes place. Standard forgiveness is after 20 or 25 years depending on your repayment plan.

-Any loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are tax-free, but not under standard forgiveness! So if you still have a balance on your loans after 20 (or 25) years, you will owe taxes on it as if it is income. While it’s still better than paying the amount back, it’s important to know it will have ramifications.

**Discretionary income = Your income – 150% of the poverty level in your state for your family size

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