13 Must-Haves for Off-Campus Living

7 Nov

You’ve finally done it! The lease is signed, and you step into your first off-campus place, surveying your home for the next year or more. The boxes are all unpacked, but even though your dorm room was brimming with “stuff”, your new digs look barren. Here are 13 things you might be missing from your original packing list!

13 Must Haves.jpg


1. Kitchen Odds & Ends

You know those miscellaneous things that are always just there in the back of a drawer or cabinet? You don’t realize you need them, you just find yourself in a pinch one day because you don’t have them. Things like a colander, wire whisk, spatula, mixing bowls, measuring cups, can and bottle openers, pot holders, and food storage containers. Picking them up now will save a lot of hassle later!

2. Pantry Staples

Having a kitchen means experimenting with new recipes (and let’s admit it, setting off the smoke detector once or twice), but it also means facing an empty pantry. It’s best to start off with some staples: spices, oil, salt and pepper, chicken broth, sugar, flour, pasta, rice, eggs, bread. Don’t forget those non-food staples, like aluminum foil and sandwich bags. With those out of the way, you can start filling in your pantry with ingredients for specific dishes. Staples can be different for different people, so think through your favorite meals, and write down reoccurring ingredients. Personally? Cheese and bacon are my two biggest kitchen must-haves.

3. Small Appliances

It’s pretty hard to make your go-to breakfast of waffles if you don’t have a toaster. An iron and ironing board, coffee pot, electric mixer, and blender are some of the many things that you might use (and probably never have had to buy before).

4. Paper Products

Believe it or not, off-campus bathrooms aren’t automatically stocked with toilet paper and tissues. If you’ve got these packed to bring with you, make sure you put them on top where they’ll be easy to find. While you’re at it, throw in some paper towels too!

5. A Shower Curtain/ Rod/ Rings

A lot of apartments will have a shower curtain rod already, but you’ll probably be on your own for the rest. Be sure to check the curtain you buy to see if it needs a liner as well. There’s nothing worse than realizing you can’t shower on day one without drenching your new bathroom.

6. Trash Can & Trash Bags

Sometimes the most obvious stuff is the easiest to forget.  You’ll thank yourself when you have a place to toss all that packing material on moving day! Relying on cardboard boxes just won’t cut it.

7. Cleaning Supplies

Coming from home, or a dorm, you might not have needed your own vacuum, toilet cleaners, mop, or shower spray. When you move off-campus, you’ll suddenly miss having a broom and dustpan, or even a couple of sponges handy. Start off with some other basics too: like hand and dish soap, laundry, and dishwasher detergent.

8. Furniture

The single futon that was crammed into your dorm room won’t look like much in an otherwise empty apartment. Identify your needs, and start looking early! Think about work space – do you need a desk? Or entertaining – do your friends normally crash on the couch, or should you have a table for dinner and games? Do you have a TV or gaming consoles? If so, where will they go? Get the measurements for your apartment and furniture before you buy, so you know each piece will fit and work for you.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to measure the doorways, and bring tools to remove the doors, or take furniture apart if needed. Legs often come off of couches for easier fitting.

9. Lamps/ Lighting

Check out the lighting situation before you move in. A lot of apartments and homes for rent, especially those near campus, don’t have overhead lighting. Look for lighting that isn’t highly directional, so that the whole room will be well-lit. Lamps with transparent or light-colored shades are a great choice!

10. Shelving/ Storage.

A lot of off-campus housing has limited storage. Make sure you pay attention to details when you’re touring housing options. Are there cabinets in the bathroom? Is there a pantry? Do the closets have shelving? Is the shelving solid? Some apartments have tons of shelves, but they’re all made of wire that smaller items can fall through. You may need baskets, multi-level hangers, a towel rack, or even a bathroom caddy if you’re looking at limited storage. You can also check out Buzzfeed and Pinterest for tons of clever storage hacks.

11. Internet Router

Most internet providers give customers the option to rent a router from them on a monthly basis, or use their own. Often, providers will allow you to purchase a router from them as well to avoid the extra monthly fees.

12. Curtains

Curtains aren’t just decorative. They also keep in a lot of warmth during the colder months. Check out what any bedroom windows face as well. If there are street lights or a busy road outside, you might want to pick up some blackout curtains so your sleep won’t be interrupted by lights and traffic.

13. Hardware, Thumbtacks & Command Hooks

Leasing offices have differing policies when it comes to hanging things, but chances are you won’t want your walls to be completely bare. Whether it is curtains, mounting a TV, or just some favorite posters, keep some hardware options on hand!

Preparing for Your First Indiana Winter Pt. 2

3 Nov

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Counselor & Native Minnesotan

While autumn may be far and away my favorite season, it also marks the approach of easily my least favorite time of the year: winter. If you’re from one of the many places in the world that Hoosiers dream about for 5 months of the year, your first Indiana winter can be a rough ride if you’re not prepared. However, with a little bit of preparation and proper clothing you won’t just survive, but thrive!preparing-for-indiana-winter-portrait

First things first, how you dress is going to determine how you feel for much of the day. So be sure that you have all the proper gear you need for any weather. Some days it will be in the 40’s, some days you might be hovering around 0 (Fahrenheit of course)! The key here is checking the weather in the morning, and there are several phone apps you can use for this. Don’t just look outside and see it’s sunny and assume you’re fine; some of the coldest days come when the sun is out since there are no clouds to help insulate.

A weather change you might not have ever thought of is the change in moisture in the air. Winter is extremely dry. Chapped lips, dry skin and nosebleeds can all be caused from the cold, dry air. Stock up on lotion and lip balm, because at some point you will need some. Just like the lack of sunlight (less than 9 ½ hours per day at times), you can’t change much about the humidity except how you deal with it.

Something you might have already put thought into is driving. After a month you might come to the reasonable conclusion that cars were not invented for winter driving. However, making sure that you have tires with reasonable tread will go a long way toward your ability to drive safely in the snow. Tires make even more of a difference than four wheel drive in snow and ice. A few things you might not have realized are important for driving safety in the winter are your wiper fluid and windshield wipers. Getting dirty snow tossed up on your windshield from the road can make visibility terrible without good wipers and fluid.


In regards to warming your car up, it is actually a common myth  that you should do it for the benefit of your car. Unless you’re driving an older vehicle that would have a carburetor (which is quite rare nowadays), you don’t need to worry about it. The only reason why I let my car warm up is to give the heat time to get warm. The longer you let your car idle, the more gas you waste, not to mention opportunities for it to be stolen since the keys are in the ignition. Also remember to have a window scraper! If your windshield is iced over and you don’t have one, it’s not going to be fun to get it off.

Even though the weather can be a hassle, don’t use it as an excuse to skip class. You pay for your courses whether you are there or not, so not going wastes some of that money. Snow days are rare and few between, however instructors cancelling courses isn’t that uncommon. So if you expect that might happen, keep your eyes on your email as that’s the most likely way they’ll let you know (unless they are a monster who just puts a note on the door so you don’t find out until you arrive). You can burrito yourself in a blanket and watch Netflix later.

For a little bonus, here are some other blogs that help cover information about surviving in the winter if you’re new to it:






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:

Letters of Recommendation2.jpg


  • 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.

Spoopy October.jpg


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


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!


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.


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.

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.

Traditional Plansstudent-loan-repayment-plans

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.


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

Someone Made Unauthorized Charges on My Debit Card

28 Sep

A couple days ago, my wife woke up to an unwelcome surprise: text message alerts from our bank that her debit card was being used to buy prepaid phone cards through several different retailers. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly what you want to wake up to at 6:00 in the morning.Unauthorized Debit Charges.png

We watched in anger as we realized it wasn’t just one mistaken purchase and every few minutes a new purchase came through for a higher sum, starting out at $150 and going up to $350.

Immediately after seeing the second purchase we called phone number on the back of our card to report a lost or stolen card. The process was quick and we knew that the card’s information was no longer valid for purchases once completed. However, the culprit kept on trying and we started getting rejected transaction texts for the additional attempts.

While we had stopped any new transactions less than 30 minutes from the first purchase, the thieves had already made over $1,200 in purchases from our checking account. We had stopped them from taking more, but what could we do to get our money back?

Thankfully, due to my experience writing articles about financial literacy I had some ideas about what we could do next.

First things first, we looked up the non-emergency number for our local police and gave them a call to report the issue. Within a few minutes, an officer was at our house and was given a report of everything we knew so far about our information being stolen and the fraudulent charges.

The officer recommended that we contact all of our banks and share the case number with them as well as to keep a very close watch on our accounts. Even though we had to go to work right after this, we still had plenty more to do.

Once our bank opened, we immediately contacted them to make them aware of the fraudulent charges. Two of the purchases had already been stopped thanks to us cancelling the debit card, however there was a third charge for over $300 with a prepaid cell phone company that didn’t get immediately reversed. They recommended we try giving their customer service a phone call and if they wouldn’t return the funds then we would file a dispute through our bank.

Needless to say the customer service at the cell phone company wasn’t very understanding of our situation and didn’t quite grasp that we did not have an account with them. After getting it escalated to a manager, they said there was nothing they could do on their end. Because of this we filed the dispute form with our bank the next day and are waiting for the charges to get overturned.

Since we didn’t know where the thief had gotten our information we were worried that simply cancelling our card and getting a new one might not be enough to protect ourselves.

In the event they also had additional information that could be used to take credit out in our names, we decided that we should take steps to protect ourselves from that. We both registered for a temporary fraud alert with one of the credit reporting agencies as well as placing a security freeze on our accounts.

The temporary fraud alert places a notice on our credit reports for anyone that does a credit check to be aware that they should be sure to confirm information with us for the next 90 days. A side bonus is that it also removes our names and addresses for two years from those annoying pre-screened credit card mailing lists.

The real security measure added was the security freeze. If anyone wishes to take out new credit in our names, they have to provide a PIN number that only we know to allow this to happen. We can also lift the security freeze temporarily or permanently through the credit reporting agencies.

Thankfully as residents of Indiana both of these options were completely free to us, regardless of whether we were already a victim of identity theft or not. However, this varies from state to state and it may cost you a small amount ($5-10) to add or lift the security freeze.

Unfortunately we don’t know, and probably never will, where someone got our debit card information. However we were saved by the fact that we receive texts every time that our card is used. If your bank has an option like this I would highly recommend you take them up on it. We check our account online pretty often, but if we had waited even a few hours to check it we would have been out of luck as the thief had been on pace to drain everything within the day.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to act fast. With a debit card your ability to recover funds depends on how quickly you report it missing/ stolen. If you report it in under 4 hours from the purchase you should be responsible for $50 or less. However, after that could be $500 if you report before 60 days. If you don’t notice it until after that, you mightn’t be able to get anything back.

I’m not crazy about potentially losing $50 due to a thief, but it’s a far cry better than the thousands they would have stolen had we not been alert to our accounts. Now that the initial surprise and then anger of the situation is over and we’ve stopped the thief, there’s not much we can do except wait for the bank to work our dispute with the company, and be careful with our cards to make sure it doesn’t happen again.


%d bloggers like this: