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Posted April 23, 2016 by

Financial aid secrets for college students

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With graduation season looming, high school seniors throughout the country are receiving their college acceptance letters and celebrating their impending sense of freedom. At the same time, parents are studying financial aid options and scratching their heads trying to figure out how to pay for the upcoming four (or more) years.

As the costs of attending college rise, it’s important to consider scholarships, grants, and student loans to assist with the hefty fees. There are also some innovative tricks that can help reduce this cost. Here are some insights gleaned from real university financial aid employees, parents, and former college students all high school seniors and their families should know.

Use your FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important financial aid document college students shouldn’t skip. Even if they don’t think they’ll qualify for any money, it’s important to fill this form out annually. This is how the federal government and schools determine what type of aid to give students. There are many subtle things that can impact the grants offered, many of which are unknown to the average person, and may change the amount a family qualifies for.

Attend class

Many universities have strict attendance and truancy policies to prevent abuse of the grants offered. If a student withdraws from a class due to non-attendance in the first few classes or consistent unexplained absences, their course load may drop below the mandatory credits needed to qualify for certain grants. If you have a scholarship or grant already, make sure you know the terms and what’s expected from your end.

Become a Resident Advisor (RA)

Aside from tuition, room and board are the most expensive costs incurred during college. With the average college student paying $8,535 a year just for a place to stay, it makes sense to try to skimp on this fee. Students who work as a Resident Advisor often wind up with free or significantly reduced room and board in exchange for their services, making this one of the most lucrative student jobs available.

Learn to cook

While Top Ramen may be students best friend those first few months, anything prepared at home is bound to be more affordable than college meal plans and eating out at restaurants. Even if a student’s cooking skills need some brushing up, this is one of the easiest ways to save money. Don’t be afraid of the kitchen.

Find freebies

So much of an average college student’s budget is spent on personal expenses, which often includes entertainment. Seek free options available through the university instead. Campuses are loaded with free amenities, from swimming pools and libraries to dorm dinners, guest lecture speakers, and student clubs.

Join a credit union

Since credit unions are run as cooperatives, they can afford giving customers extra perks that wind up saving them a lot of money. They typically feature lower credit card interest rates, higher interest rates paid out on savings accounts, and reduced-fee ATMs and online banking services.

While the term “starving student” has origins in truth, it doesn’t need to be a reality for all. Instead, research financial aid opportunities and spend wisely to save money and stick to a good budget throughout your academic career.

If you’re interested in more information on financial aid, please visit our blog and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.

Brooke Chaplan, guest writer

Brooke Chaplan, guest writer

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information on first time budgeting, see what a Bountiful Utah Credit Union might recommend. Brooke is available via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

Posted April 02, 2016 by

How to avoid 5 common study slip-ups

Female college student studying in a library courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Highly effective students know how to study. They pace themselves and don’t save all of their studying for the last minute. They also know how to take notes along the way to make their studying more efficient. Cramming and other last-minute study techniques can leave them exhausted, and incapable of performing well on test day. Use these ideas to improve your study system, and get a better grade this time around.

1. Avoid cramming

If you absolutely have to cram before a test, try to take breaks. Sleep is important for learning, so find a few hours to sleep after a long study session, and you’ll be better able to think clearly during the test. Research shows the first sleep cycle lasts about three hours. After that, we dip in and out every one and a half hours. Try to sleep from three to four and a half hours before your test.

2. Create a habit

Studying at the same time every day allows students to study better for their tests and make time for important assignments. Pick a time when you are unlikely to be disturbed and aim for the same time each day. You’ll get a better study session, and your brain will start to become used to your study routine.

3. Study locations

The place where students study is important. If they find they study best in the library, they should make a habit of getting out of their dorms or apartments, and getting to the library first thing. Make home a safe place from school work, and find places outside of it to work hard and for preparation. This way, home can become a place to relax, unwind, and have some fun.

4. Set specific goals

If you’re working toward a master’s in higher education, your goals should be specific and relate not only to your coursework, but your future career. Create lesson plans to start building the skills to become a teacher. Conduct mock lectures when teaching the material you’re learning in school to an imaginary classroom. This will not only show what you haven’t learned, but will prepare you to become a more effective educator. The same goes if you plan to intern as a scientist in the lab or research assistant. Come up with appropriate scenarios and hands-on study that prepare you for your future career and still help you learn the material.

5. Don’t procrastinate

Treat studying like a job. The most important thing to remember is students don’t have to be in the mood for studying. Studying is a process, and they may have some good days and some bad days. It’s okay to have a bad study session. Don’t let your mood affect whether you’re going to study. Push through and make your habits stick, and the rest is easy.

If you’re going for a long study session, start with the most difficult subjects first. Move on to the easier subjects when fatigue becomes a factor. Remember to take frequent breaks, and eat foods high in protein and carbs to sustain your energy levels and to prevent dips in energy.

If you’re looking for more study tips, go to the College Recruiter blog and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.

Photo of Brooke Chaplan

Brooke Chaplan, guest writer

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.