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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: 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.

Statement of Purpose22

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.

What is Graduate School & Is It Right For Me?

27 Sep

What is graduate school?

Deciding to pursue a graduate education is not a decision to make lightly. Graduate school is a very focused occupation, so it is important to have a clear idea of what you want to study.Grad School Right.png

While an undergraduate education allows you to explore a variety of areas, graduate school dives into the details of a specific topic. You may work closely with one major professor and additional faculty members to design your course of study, particularly if you pursue a PhD.

You may become part of a lab group or research team, and work closely with other students on that team. Often, these students work on similar, but not identical, topics as you.

How do I determine if a graduate school is right for me?

Graduate school requires a lot of commitment, both from you and the people with whom you will be working. Your major professor will invest a great deal of time, energy, and training to help you succeed. Determining the major professor you want to work with is one of the most important decisions you can make.

While the reputation of the school you are considering is important, even more important is the reputation of the program and the professor with whom you want to work. As a full-time student, you will generally commit two years working toward a master’s degree and an additional three to four years working toward a PhD.

You may not necessarily have scheduled school breaks (such as winter, spring, summer, and fall breaks) as vacation. Understanding this ahead of time will prevent some unexpected frustration.

Approach the graduate school process with the same attitude you would approach a job because ultimately, that’s exactly what it is.

When researching various graduate programs, important questions to consider are:

  • Are you going to enjoy working here? Are the people and environment going to encourage and support your best efforts?
  • What are the course offerings and how are they scheduled (i.e., day or night classes)?
  • How many graduate students has your potential major professor had?
  • What is the average length of time it has taken for one of this professor’s students to graduate?
  • What have been the professor’s current students’ experiences and how long have they worked with this professor? How long do they anticipate their degree completion to take? (Talk to the students directly.)
  • What are the expectations and management style of your potential major professor? When does s(he) expect you in the office? Will (s)he be available when you have questions?

Remember that the interview process is a two-way process. Not only is your school of interest trying to determine if you would make a good graduate student, but you should try to determine if your school of interest is going to be a good fit for you!

Where can I go for more information?

Although your best resources of information about potential graduate schools and programs are often your professors, advisors, career services staff, professionals in your field of interest, and peers pursuing graduate study: there are several online resources where you can search for schools and programs that may fit your interests and needs. These include:

The FAFSA Opens Oct 1st!

5 Sep

fafsa
Getting you through FAFSA, one question at a time.FAFSAQs

 

  • Who

    • Who Should File a FAFSA?
      If you are interested in getting any Federal Financial Aid, including federal direct loans, you need to file the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov/ to become eligible. Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans. In addition, many colleges’ need-based scholarships rely on FAFSA information to verify that you are eligible. In short, everyone should file the FAFSA – even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any federal aid.

     

    • Whose Information is Needed to File a FAFSA?
      This answer depends on if you are a dependent student or not. Unsure if you’re Dependent or Independent? Check here. (Note: this is not the same as being independent for tax filing)
      Dependent students: You need tax information for both you AND your parents. If your parents are divorced, you need the information on whoever you receive the most support (51%) from.Independent students: You only need your own information unless you are married. If so, you will need your spouse’s information as well.
  • What

     

     

    • What If Things Change After I File The FAFSA?
      If your family situation has a significant change after you’ve filed your FAFSA, and any time while you’re in school, stop by your Financial Aid office to see if you qualify for a “special circumstance”. These could include job loss, divorce, death of a parent, child birth, or other unexpected situations that impact your financial status.

     

    • What Types of Federal Financial Aid are there?
      There are three main types of financial aid:
      1. Grants & Scholarships— Federal Pell Grants do not have to be repaid and are sometimes referred to as “gift aid”. Grants are similar to scholarships, except that they are often for those who demonstrate financial need, where scholarships can be either merit-based or need-based.
      2. Student Loans — This is the type you hear about most often. Filling out the FAFSA is required to be eligible for Federal Direct loans. Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans from lending institutions, because they have fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options. Keep in mind that there are limits on how much you can borrow in a year as well as in your lifetime.
      3. Federal Work Study (FWS) — Work Study may provide you with more opportunities to find on-campus jobs. Rather than being given the funds in the beginning of the semester like loans and grants, FWS earnings are distributed to you as part of your paycheck. Tips on finding a job around the Purdue campus and the difference between Work Study and non-Work Study jobs.
  • Where

     

    • Where Do I Get the School Code and FSA ID?
      You’ll need the school code for whatever schools you are interested in applying to. They are available here. Your FSA ID is used to login and electronically sign your FAFSA. Set it up at here. Purdue’s school code is 001825.

     

    • Where Do I Get Help?
      College Goal Sunday will be held on Sunday, November 5th in Indiana and it provides FREE FAFSA filing assistance. It is at Ivy Tech in West Lafayette, but to find a location near you in one of the participating 42 states, go to www.CollegeGoalSundayUsa.org. You can always call the Financial Aid office of your prospective school to ask questions as well.
  • When

    • When Can I start the FAFSA?
      You can begin the FAFSA any time after October 1st of the year before you plan to attend college. So if plan to be in college for the 2018-19 school year, you can start your FAFSA on October 1, 2017. The FAFSA uses the student/parent tax information from the previous year of when you file. If you are filling out for the 2018-19 school year you’ll use your 2016 tax info. Keep in mind that while you use your 2016 tax information, the rest of the questions are meant to reflect your situation the day that you file. You can estimate the required information to beat a college priority filing date, but the info must be corrected after the taxes are complete!

     

    • When is the FAFSA Due?
      If you are a Purdue student, the FAFSA priority filing date is March 1st, so be sure to have it done by then! Other colleges (and states) have their own priority dates. Check for deadlines here.
  • How

    • How Do I Get my Financial Aid?
      Your financial aid is sent directly to your school and they will apply it directly toward your billing and send any excess aid to you to be used for books and other education related expenses. The exception is Work Study which needs to be earned by working, and is paid via a paycheck.

     

    • How Much is the Maximum That Can be Borrowed?
      Most students don’t know this, but there is a maximum amount of Federal Loans you can take out each year. There is also a maximum amount you can take throughout your college career! Check out the chart below for annual and lifetime limits.If you take the maximum amount for four years, there won’t be as much left for a fifth year if needed.

      Plan ahead!

      Remember: Everything you borrow you will have to pay back with interest for the next 10 (or more) years. For every $5,000 you borrow at 6% interest, you pay back $6,661.23 over 10 years ($55.51/ month).

Why

  • Why Should I Do a FAFSA?
    Other than qualifying for grants and Federal Loans? Many state grants and institutional scholarships require FAFSA information submitted. Even if you aren’t sure, it is always worth submitting!

 

    • FAFSA-brw-chart

My First Grocery Shopping Experience

16 Aug

Jo Marshall, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

You have decided to take the leap—the leap from childhood to adulthood. You are going to try to make your own food… but first you have to buy ingredients. Grocery shopping can be an adventure in and of itself. Just finding the correct items in the grocery store and maintaining your budget can be a challenge.

The first time I decided to buy my own groceries, I chose to go to Walmart. I didn’t have a car and I knew that the bus route would take me directly to the store and back to campus. Even so, I was terrified that I was somehow going to end up stranded.

I boarded the correct bus, but once the bus reached Lafayette, the driver announced that we were changing routes. Purdue’s campus was far off in the distance and I didn’t know what to do. Surely I could find another bus, but what if it also changed routes? I had to think fast. I found another bus that was heading to Walmart and decided to take my chances.

Luckily, this bus stayed on route.

It wouldn’t have been that stressful, had I taken the time to look around on http://www.gocitybus.com/ to see which routes could get me there. The City Bus even has a smartphone app that allows you to see where the bus is at any time. Because I hadn’t prepared myself for the trip, going to the store took longer than normal, and I was hungry upon arrival. And you never want to grocery shop when you’re hungry.

bus floor and seats; text overlay: Grocery Shopping in College

When I reached Walmart, I grabbed a cart and very slowly walked around the store. It’s not that I wanted to be lackadaisical, but rather that I wanted to find the items and I had no idea where they would be.

I arrived in the aisle for my first item and was bombarded by the immense array of colorful advertisements and choices. I had never realized how many different kinds of cereal there were! Not only are there lots of different kinds of cereal, there are also lots of different brands of every single kind.

The thing about having a lot of choices available is that you are frequently faced with the choice of buying a cheaper and potentially lesser quality item, or perhaps spending more and getting an item that may not be better than the cheaper option.

On this particular shopping trip, I made some poor choices when it came to which brand to buy. I spent more money than I had planned and came home with things that I didn’t need because I had been hungry. I also forgot several of the items that I needed the first few times that I went to the store.

As I learned after a few shopping trips, it’s best if I follow a few rules when I go:

First and foremost, I no longer go grocery shopping if I’m hungry. If I go shopping when I’m hungry, I buy way too much junk food. It’s better if I take the time to eat beforehand.

Secondly, I have learned that it’s best if I carry a grocery list. This helps me not to forget anything and prevents me from buying items I don’t need. It also enables me to estimate how much money I will be spending so that I know whether or not I am going to stay within my budget.

Finally, I have learned from experience which items are okay to buy cheaply and which items are worth spending more money on. This is my personal preference but it’s definitely worth trying different brands to find the best and cheapest option for you.

I hope that you can learn from my mistakes in order to stay within your budget and experience less frustration than I did the first time you go grocery shopping. Shop away!

Freshman Boot Camp: Last Minute Packing Tips

11 Aug

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator

Believe it or not, it’s almost time to move in to your new home at Purdue!

Depending on how far you’re travelling, forgetting something at home could be a quick trip home on the weekend or it could be “looks like I have to sleep without blankets until they can be shipped here”.

If you are feeling panicked because you haven’t started yet, don’t worry! Take it from someone who didn’t actually pack until the morning he left, it can be done in a pinch but that’s also a great way to forget a bunch of important items like I did. So don’t be like me and have to sleep without a real pillow for the first night.

Last Packing Tips.png

Because move-in day and the packing leading up to it can be stressful even for those who plan ahead, it’s good to be prepared with a few last checks to make sure you have everything you need!

Label everything – This first tip comes from University Residences’ Tips for a Successful Move-in Day. Put your first and last name as well as your room number on everything. There will be people helping to bring your stuff into the residence halls but don’t leave any room for question in where it is going.

Pack light – Another great tip from University Residences article. Dorm rooms aren’t huge and trying to fit everything from your bedroom at home just isn’t going to do. If you’re doing anything more than filling an SUV with your stuff, you’re going to want to cut back. This might mean only bringing clothes that are in-season and leaving the winter parka at home (for now).

Buy it here – Believe it or not, West Lafayette is more than just Purdue! There are plenty of grocery stores and other shops like Wal-Mart, Target and Meijer where you can buy most anything that you need. Whether it’s something replaceable that you forgot or you don’t have room for, consider buying it once you arrive.

Don’t forget it – Remember to bring along any items that can’t be replaced or it’s unnecessary to have extras at home! Some ideas:

  • Laptop charger
  • Pillows, blankets, and sheets
  • Personal care items like tweezers, bandaids, etc that you’d rather not have to run to a store when you need them
  • Scissors
  • Tape and command strips
  • School supplies – you could buy these before classes but you might be too busy
  • Clothes hangers
  • Long (6′ or longer) phone charging cord
  • Water bottle
  • Fan – these sell out quickly at the local stores
  • Towels

It may not be everything you’ll need but there’s a few things that are easy to forget that you’ll regret. So finish up the packing, have one last weekend with your high school friends, and download the Purdue app.

We’ll see you on Monday!

Freshman Boot Camp: Money Saving Tips for Students

10 Aug

Jim Wang, Wallet Hacks
wallethacks.com

College is a fantastic time of exploration, freedom, and growth.

It’s also a time when many of our habits are formed, especially those about money and saving. These habits can have a ripple effect on your life so solidifying a few good practices today can help you better manage the future.

I have a list of 40+ money tips for college students, which cover the basics like emergency funds and budgeting, but today I wanted to share an extra set of just money saving tips every college student needs.6 Easy Money Saving Tips

Avoid credit card debt at all costs

It’s so easy to charge everything to plastic. Whether it’s textbooks, equipment, or a pizza, make sure that you pay off your credit card bill in full each month.

It’s so tempting to pay the minimum and push the debt off another month, but that will result in you paying hundreds of dollars (if not more!) in interest for nothing. If you don’t believe me, you can use this calculator to do the math yourself and find out how much that $20 pizza will cost you!

That’s money you can use to save for your retirement, for a new car, or your first house. Avoiding debt, especially high interest credit card debt, is priority number one after graduation.

Start budgeting

Budgeting isn’t the most fun thing to do but getting in the habit early is a good idea. When you budget, you have a better sense of where your money is going.

You can use tools like Mint or Personal Capital to help automate the process and when you’re older, you’ll appreciate the wealth of historic information you’re recording now.

Cook more, eat out less

Your studies and your social activities will probably take up a big chunk of your time, so you’ll be tempted to eat out more than you cook if you’re not on a university meal plan.

Resist the temptation! Eating at a restaurant, even a quick service one, is far more expensive than cooking at home. In the beginning, you’ll be terrible at it. Everyone is.

But stick with it and try to cook as much as you can. It’s healthier, cheaper, and you’ll get better the more often you do it.

Take advantage of student discounts

Businesses give student discounts all the time. They know that students don’t make a lot of money and they still want your business, so they’re willing to give you a break if they know you’re a student.

Always keep your student ID on you and ask if a student discount is available – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Use your student loan for tuition only!

Some student loans are deposited directly into your student account and some are deposited directly into your bank account. If you have one of the latter, do not use the money for anything other than tuition and school related expenses.

If you have no other choice, you can use it on necessities but your goal should be to avoid debt as much as possible. Sometimes you don’t have any other options, and that’s understandable, but make sure before you saddle yourself with student debt.

Earn a little cash in your spare time

We all have downtime during the day and on weekends – try to find a way to turn that time into money.

Whether it’s taking on a side gig, earning some cash online through surveys, or something bigger – building a side hustle that earns a little extra money can pay dividends in the long run. There are a lot of sites online that will pay you money for small segments of work, or gigs, and you can easily finish them in 5-15 minutes of down time.

Jim Wang writes about money on his personal finance blog, Wallet Hacks. Get his strategies and tactics for getting ahead financially and in life by joining his free newsletter.

Freshman Boot Camp: Your Student Discount

9 Aug

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Counselor – Purdue University

Student discounts are one of the nicest perks you get from being a student. Combined with all the events that hand out giveaways and free food, using your student discount can help keep you within a budget.

So here’s a list of places that you can get a student discount at! Just keep in mind that this isn’t everywhere that offers one, so always ask when you buy something if they offer a discount!

StudentID Discount.png

Shopping

  • Amazon: Join Amazon Student for free two-day shipping for your first 6 months. Just remember to cancel it before the 6 months is up if you’re not interested in subscribing for $49 a year (50% of standard Prime cost). Not to mention with the Amazon Stores in the Union and Krach, you can get packages delivered directly to campus!
  • Apple: $5/ month Apple Music subscription and a bunch of random discounts on macs, iPads, and other products
  • Banan Republic: 15% off
  • Charlotte Russe: 10% off
  • Dell: $150 off PCs
  • FedEx: 20-30% discount on documents and packages
  • Microsoft: 10% off
  • Toms: Free shipping on all orders
  • Sam’s Club: $40 membership plus $15 gift card given to you

Entertainment & Travel

  • Amtrack: 15% off if you book ahead
  • Wabash Landing Movie Theater: Save on your movie tickets $.50 – $1.50 depending on the time of the movie. They also have a rewards program that is free to join for free concessions.
  • Rugged Xscape Escape Room: $2.00 off
  • Purdue sporting events!

There are also other discounts around the area, but unfortunately they are difficult to track down individually online.

Food*

  • Arby’s: 10% off
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: 10% off
  • Burger King: 10% off
  • Chick-fil-A: Free drinks with a meal
  • Chipotle: Free drink with a meal
  • Dairy Queen: 10% off
  • Kroger/ Payless: 5% off
  • Papa John’s 10-20% off
  • Pizza Hut: 10-20% off
  • Qdoba: Free drink with a meal and burrito meal for $5
  • Subway: 10% off
  • Taco Bell: 10% off

*All of these are depending on the location, but it’s worth it to ask!

Freshman Boot Camp: Budgeting Your Financial Aid Refund

9 Aug

One of the mantras told to college students is to “Live within your means”. While it’s good advice to generally follow, it doesn’t get at how difficult it can be to do so while you’re in college. One of the biggest challenges college students face is that their incoming flow of cash tends to be extremely irregular.Budgeting your Refund.png

You might be sitting on a big pile of cash after your financial aid refund comes in, but if you don’t budget it correctly you’ll be broke before the semester ends. So in order to avoid eating exclusively ramen at the end of the semester you’ll want to come up with a strategy for taking care of your money!

As a student, you probably have three potential avenues to get an incoming cash-flow. They are your financial aid refund, a part-time job, and cash gifts for holidays and your birthday. Your parents might also throw something your way once in a while but no one wants to have to ask just because you weren’t keeping track.

Making a realistic budget can be tough but once you know your income it does get a little bit easier. So total up what you’ll get between your financial aid refund and what you’ll get from work. If you know for sure what you’ll get for gifts you can toss that in, but that’s not a for-sure thing.

Next, start by totaling up all of your projected expenses for each month. Aside from obvious things like rent, utilities, food, and other monthly bills you’ll need to include a projected number for having fun. If you know some times of the year like Grand Prix or Homecoming you’ll be spending extra, try to account for that by varying it up by month.

What’s important here is to make sure that your total income is higher than your total expenditures. If it’s not, there’s going to be a big problem.

Assuming the numbers add up, you’ll have a little bit of a strange result. You’ll have your monthly expenditures but your income will be a combination of paychecks and a one-time refund from your financial aid.

There’s actually a surprisingly simple way to be able to make this into a steady income flow without being tempted by the big number in your checking account.

This method is called using a Holding Account. Basically you take the lump sum of money and deposit it into a bank account and set up recurring transfers to your primary checking account on a monthly basis. This way between your income from work and the transfers you’ll be able to pay your monthly expenses without having the temptation to make a big impulse purchase.

If you want to de-automate it a bit, you could actually have them both as checking accounts and write a check from your holding account to yourself on a bi-weekly or monthly basis and deposit it into your other checking account.

This system is not fool-proof but it combines the ability to pay your bills and have some fun while also putting up a small barrier to the full sum to keep you from tapping out your semester’s funds on a whim.

Something to note: make sure that your holding account doesn’t have any fees related to minimum transactions or minimum balance if you can. It doesn’t make any sense to pay one bank to hold your money when there’s plenty of others that’ll do it for free.

If you find that your financial aid refund is going to be much more than you’ll need to meet your expenses and you’re taking loans, it’s worth looking into reducing what you borrow. Remember that not only do you have to pay back what you borrow, you’ll be accruing interest on most loans until the day they are paid off.

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