Saving Money this Summer: Yes, It’s Possible!

 For many college students, summer means making money. They work long hours during their vacation to earn money for the academic year. However, summer brings temptations of its own, including the urge to spend! Fortunately, with a little planning, you can enjoy the summer without losing all your savings.

1.) Fun = Free or Almost Free. You don’t need to plan extravagant outings to create memories with your friends and family. Many towns offer free outdoor concerts, festivals, and theater performances during the summer; check out your local newspaper for information about upcoming events. In addition, you can hike or swim at local or state parks for little or nothing.

2.) There’s always a cheaper option. Lunch and breakfast are less pricey than dinner; picnics and potlucks are less expensive than eating out. Matinees are cheaper than evening movies, DVD rentals and Netflix are even less expensive, and your local library will allow you to borrow DVDs for free. There’s nothing wrong with the odd splurge, but make sure your “treats” are occasional and special – otherwise, they’re not splurges, but reckless spending.

3.) Think daytrips, not vacations. Check out destinations – amusement parks, nature trails, museums, and events – within a four-hour drive of your home. If you don’t have to stay overnight, you’ll save money on meals and hotel fare.

4.) Keep it separated. Most adults have a checking account, which they use to pay their bills, and a savings account, which constitutes their savings. If you haven’t opened a savings account, now is the time. Allocate a certain amount of money to your savings account every pay period. You’ll be less likely to spend the money if it’s separate from the rest of your income.

5.) Do your financial aid homework. Even if you’re working a lot, you probably have extra time on your hands during the summer. Use some of it to research scholarship options for the next academic year. Check out Fastweb, College Board, and org to research scholarships. You may have to spend hours filling out applications and writing essays. Regard this the way you would any other job: something you have to do to earn money.

6.) Stay focused. Remind yourself of why you’re in college and what you hope to be one day. Saving money in the present will be much easier if you remember the future you want. While you’re at it, start taking steps toward your goal. You’ve probably heard about how crucial internships are for recent graduates. If you don’t have an internship lined up for this summer, use your downtime to research internship opportunities for the academic year or following summer. You might also request informational interviews with people who are working in your field.

Summer doesn’t have to mean having to choose between work and pleasure. With some mindfulness, you can a fun and frugal, relaxing and inspiring season that prepares you for the next academic year and the career you want.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

Really Free Money: Strategies for Scholarships

teenage student giving thumb up while using laptop

If you’re like most college students, your financial aid package is a mixture of loans, grants, work study, and scholarships. And if you’re like many of your peers, you may be pretty vague about the details of your package. No question about it, college financing is confusing; that’s why colleges and universities employ experienced professionals to staff their financial aid offices.

But even if you avoid financial details, here’s one principle you need to remember: you want to borrow as little money as possible. You’ll have to pay back loans, whereas you won’t have to pay back scholarships and grants. Therefore, you want to apply for as many scholarships and grants you can.

Unfortunately, many students don’t bother applying for scholarships. Often, they assume they won’t qualify; sometimes, they think the application process isn’t worth the award. Above all, they’re simply unaware of the breadth of scholarships available. The fact is, if you’re a college student in decent academic standing, you qualify for scholarships! Here are some tips to maximize your scholarship earnings:

Get Creative – and Confident. Devote time to researching possible scholarships. There are scholarships for academic excellence, of course, but also for students from certain backgrounds or geographic areas, cancer survivors or their family members, and individuals with specific career goals or interests. Start by applying for the Returning Student Scholarship at Castleton (due March 4th). Next, look at resources in your community: businesses and service clubs, such as the Rotary or Lions Club, often offer scholarships. VSAC maintains a database of scholarships for Vermont residents (also due March 4th). Finally, check out Fastweb, College Board, and Finaid.org to search for scholarships. On Fastweb and other sites, you may have to spend some time filling out questionnaires to be matched with scholarships; however, your effort could be worth hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars.

Get Organized. Make checklist of all of the items you’ll need – essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. – to apply for each scholarship. (You’re applying for than one, naturally.) Include the scholarship’s deadline at the top of the checklist. You may even want to maintain a folder for each application.

Get Deadlines. Remember: the deadline is the absolute latest date you can apply. Play it safe, and make sure your application materials are ready at least a week in advance.

Get Help. If you have any questions about any aspect of your scholarships applications, check in with a faculty member or any of the counselors at Academic Support. We can also assist you with scholarship essays. Whether you need help getting started or want someone to review your draft, you can visit the Writing Clinic or schedule an appointment with Bill Wiles, our Writing Specialist. Call 468-1347 or stop by to schedule an appointment.

Like college itself, applying for scholarships takes time, effort, and organization. Expect to devote several hours to each scholarship application. Although you may prefer to use your free time to relax or socialize, think of your scholarship search as a part-time job: one that will help you on your journey to your ultimate goal. Now, that’s exciting!

Good luck and don’t forget to stop by with questions!

-Dorothy A. Dahm

New Year, New Semester, New Beginning

leapforwardWell, 2017 is a couple weeks old, but the semester is brand new. It’s the perfect time to shed bad study habits and develop some good ones. Regardless of what high school or last semester or last year was like, you can always start afresh.

As Spring 2017 begins, here are some resolutions to consider. Pick two or three to work on this semester:

_ I will keep using – or resume – the tactics that have helped me succeed in the past.

_ I will try to kick my procrastination habit. I will not put off assignments or test preparation until the last minute; I will break down projects into manageable chunks and work on them a little at a time.

_ I will limit distractions while I study. I will find a quiet spot where I can focus on my work and turn off my phone, internet browser, and TV during study sessions.

_ If I need help, I will get it. That might mean visiting the Academic Support Center, meeting with my professor, or joining a study group.

_ I will put academics first – even if that means putting my social life and extracurricular activities on the back burner.

_I will complete a Weekly Schedule and set aside time to study.

_I will prioritize my financial health. If I have questions about my bill or need help creating a budget, I will schedule an appointment with Academic Support. I’ll get serious about saving money on food, clothing, housing, transportation, and entertainment.

_I will take care of myself physically and mentally. I’ll eat fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and stick to a sleep schedule. If I get overwhelmed, I’ll talk with a close friend or family member or meet with a counselor at the Wellness Center. I’ll take time to relax and do the things I enjoy.

_I will [insert your own resolution here].

Need help getting started or have questions about how we can assist you? Please call us at 802-468-1347, e-mail us, or stop by our office on the first floor of Babcock. We look forward to seeing you.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Tis the Season to Be Saving: Financial Tips for Break and the Holidays

gingerbread_men_cookies__large

For many students, college life means being broke – and this is especially true around the holidays and winter break. With gift shopping, holiday parties, and outings with friends, the pressure to spend money can leave students feeling less than festive. What should be a time of joy and relaxation becomes a burden.

Fortunately, it is possible to save money and enjoy the holidays. Here are some tips to help you stay in good financial health over vacation.

1.) Think Modest. You’re a full-time college student. No one expects you to give extravagant gifts. Give small, thoughtful presents, go homemade (baked goods are always a hit), or consider limiting your gift list. Some families do a Yankee Swap; others pull names from hat and select a present for the person whose name they pulled. Be honest about your financial situation with your loved ones. You even might ask siblings, friends, and extended family to take a break from gift-giving this year. They may be glad you suggested this!

2.) Check Your List – Twice! If family members ask what you want for the holidays, think about your needs. Do you have enough clothing to last you through the next year? Socks? Do you need help buying books or school supplies for next semester? Could you use a gas card or points for your meal plan? Don’t be afraid to ask for necessities: most loved ones will be happy to help you pursue your goals. If you receive money, save it or earmark it for next semester’s expenses.

3.) Be Selective. During break, you may be tempted to spend money on entertainment, including movie tickets, restaurant meals, concerts, and nightclubs. Of course, you want to have fun with friends, but you don’t want to lose your savings. Limit your outings, or plan less expensive ones. Consider going to a matinee – or staying home and watching DVDs with popcorn. Check your local newspaper and see what free events are going on in your hometown. Clip coupons for your favorite chain restaurant. (Sunday newspapers usually include them.) Can’t afford that lift ticket? Try bundling up and taking a walk in the snow.

4.) Treat Yourself. Maybe you really want that concert ticket, dress, or season pass. It may even be worth it. But before you open your wallet, think about what that splurge might mean. Will seeing your favorite band live be worth a few months of being broke? Will you have opportunities to wear that dress? How often will you be able to get to the mountain this winter? It’s normal to want to reward yourself for hard work, but a smaller treat, whether it’s a book, garment, or a trip to your favorite café, might make you just as happy.

As the year and the semester draw to a close, think about your financial goals for the year ahead. How can you save money and reduce your debt? This sounds like a grim process, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, the more money you save in college, the less debt you’ll have after graduation. Think of being frugal as preparing for the future – just one more step on your journey to the life you want.

– Dorothy A. Dahm

FAFSA: Don’t Delay, Do It Today!

student-loan-paperwork

Have you completed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? It’s easy put off tasks that are complex, boring, and time-consuming – and many students consider the FAFSA all three. (That’s why so many professionals don’t do their income taxes until the last minute!)

But just as you shouldn’t procrastinate about your homework, you shouldn’t delay your financial aid application. This year, you can fill out the FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016. Here’s why you should complete the FAFSA before the end of the Fall 2016 semester:

1.) States Don’t Wait. Remember: you use the FAFSA to apply for aid from the federal government, your state, and your school for the coming academic year. Many states have deadlines – usually in February or March – for state-specific aid, including grants. (Vermont has a first-come, first-served policy, which means you should apply as soon as possible after October 1, 2016.) Find out your state’s deadline, and make sure you submit the FAFSA well before that date. You don’t want to miss out on any aid, including grants and scholarships, which you won’t have to repay! (Please note that if you are a Vermont resident and want to apply for a VSAC grant, you should apply online after you complete the FAFSA.)

2.) Early Birds Get the Institutional Worm. Technically, you have until March 31, 2018 to apply for financial aid for the 2017-2018 year at Castleton. But the sooner you submit your FAFSA, the greater your chances of receiving aid from Castleton – or any college, for that matter. Castleton plans to start awarding financial aid to returning students in mid-February 2017, so be sure to complete your FAFSA by the start of the New Year.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons why students put the FAFSA on the backburner. Fortunately, you can apply early even if the following apply to you:

1.) You – or Your Parents – Haven’t Done Your Taxes Yet. No worries. This year, you can use your 2015 income information.

2.) Your Financial Circumstances Have Changed. Maybe you or your parents have lost a job. Maybe you’re working fewer hours than you did last year. If that’s the case, you may be reluctant to report last year’s income on the FAFSA because you’ll probably receive less aid than you need. Here’s what you need to do: report last year’s income on the FAFSA. Then, contact the Financial Aid Office. Explain that your income has changed and ask the staff to complete a professional judgement review. This will give you an opportunity to report your estimated income for the coming year. Bear in mind that you may have to provide proof of your income change, such as a layoff notice or information about unemployment benefits or severance pay.

Whatever your circumstances or concerns, you should never postpone the FAFSA. If you have questions about the application process, please call Academic Support at 468-1347 or stop by to schedule an appointment with a counselor. You can also contact the Financial Aid office at 468-6070.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

Student Loans 101: Getting Educated

student-loan-calculator

In just a few weeks, it will all be over. You’ll turn in your last exam and sigh with relief. Then you’ll don your cap and gown, accept your diploma, and pose for photos. Finally, you’ll be off to the real world – to start your job search or, if you’re lucky, your first post-college position.

But one aspect of your education is just beginning: your student loan repayment. This may sound intimidating, especially if the financial vocabulary is new to you. However, with a little research, you’ll find your debt far less daunting. Here are some key points to remember as you prepare to tackle your loans,

1.) Know your loan servicer. Although you’ve borrowed money from the federal government, you’ll your federal loans through a loan servicer, which the federal government will assign you. Common loan servicers include Navient, VSAC, Nelnet, and Granite State. If you took out a private loan, from a bank, for example, you will repay the money you borrowed, plus interest, to that lender.

2.) Understand grace periods. Most federal loans, except for PLUS loans, have a six-month grace period. That means you do not have to start paying your loans until six months after graduation. Use this time to educate yourself about your loan repayment options if you haven’t done so already. And don’t get too complacent: you’ll have to start making payments shortly, so you don’t want to get used to spending a lot of your income.

3.) Know your options. There are lots of ways to repay your student loans. You can pay the same amount every month for up to ten years (Standard Loan Repayment), or you can make payments that increase over time (Graduated Repayment). Some plans take into account your income (Income-Based, Income-Contingent, or Income-Sensitive Repayment.) Other options exist as well. Although you will pay the least interest – and thus the least amount of money – under the Standard Repayment plan, other schemes may be better suited to your financial situation. This is particularly true if you find yourself working less hours or earning less money than you anticipated. Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans for an overview of your repayment options.

4.) Beg forgiveness – or at least a reprieve. If you return to school, are active-duty military, find yourself unemployed, or experience economic hardship, including Peace Corps service, you may be able to defer your loans. That means you won’t have to make payments for a period of time. Depending on what type of loan you have, the government may even pay your interest during your deferment. If you find yourself unable to make payments, ask your loan servicer for information about your options. In addition, the federal government offers loan forgiveness programs for some teachers and public servants. If you qualify, you may not have to pay back some of your loans. Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation for more information.

5.) Do the math. Know how much you borrowed and how much you can expect to pay, over time, under the various repayment plans. Fortunately, the federal government offers a website that will do the calculations for you. You’ll need your FSA id to log in.

It’s natural to be apprehensive about your student loans. After all, you borrowed a lot of money to get where you are today, and you may already be anxious about starting your career. However, by educating yourself about student loans and your debt, you can prevent most problems and ensure a much brighter financial future.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Game of Life: Come Learn, Come Play!

wheelAs college students, we’re caught up with our social and academic lives. With so many thoughts zooming in and out of our heads, where do we find time to think about life after college? Although we’re in college to prepare for our careers, we rarely ponder life after graduation.

It’s time to narrow that gap. On Wednesday March 23, 2016 from 5:00-6:30 PM in the 1787 Room, the Heritage Family Credit Union, Academic Support Center, and Student Life will host a Game of Life Financial Reality Fair to heighten students’ awareness of financial literacy and personal finances after graduation. You can start at 5, 5:30, or 6 pm, and it takes about a half an hour to play. After you play, stick around for free pizza and a chat about the game.

It works a lot like the board game Life. You’ll choose a career and create a monthly budget based on a starting salary for that position. Then you’ll visit various stations to explore housing, transportation, food, night life, pets, furniture, and cell phone options. See how far your money goes! In the end, you’ll meet with a financial advisor to discuss your budget and assess how well you made out. But don’t worry: in the Game of Life, you get a second chance to make your budget work!

This will be the second annual Game of Life held at Castleton. Last year, 100 students attended. We’re hoping this year will be even bigger – and we can’t wait to see you there.

-Katie Haseltine

Katie Haseltine is a junior Management and Marketing major who tutors math and writing and serves as a Student Ambassador in Admissions at Castleton University. She is also actively involved in planning events through the Campus Activities Board.

Spring 2016: Here’s What’s Going On at Academic Support

photo-for-student-access-and-opp-guide-march-2008From paying for college to thriving after graduation, we’ve got you covered!  

Thursday, January 28th. Resume and Cover Letter Workshop. It’s never too early to start preparing for your job search. Renée Beaupre-White, Director of Career Services, will help you market your best asset: you! Academic Support.2-3 pm.

Wednesday, February 10th. FAFSA Renewal Drop-In. Bring your questions about completing the FAFSA and applying for financial aid. Academic Support. 2-4 pm.

Thursday, February 11th. Interviewing Strategies. Don’t sweat the big interview! Renée Beaupre-White tells you how to impress. Academic Support. 2-3 pm.

Wednesday, February 24th. Scholarship Help Drop-In. Come with questions about scholarship applications and essays. Academic Support. 2-4 pm.

Thursday, February 25th. LinkedIn Profile. Learn how social media can help you boost your career. Academic Support. 2-3 pm.

Thursday, March, 10th. Job and Internship Strategies. Ready, set, go! Renée Beaupre-White helps you translate your dreams into reality. Academic Support. 2-3 pm.

Wednesday, March 23rd. Game of Life. The most fun you’ll ever have learning about saving money and planning for the future. Location TBA. 5-7 pm.

Thursday, April 7th. Resume and Cover Letter Workshop. Renée Beaupre-White will help you market your best asset: you! Academic Support. 2-3 pm.

Wednesday, April 13th. Senior Loan Event. Dinner – and straight talk about repaying your loans. Academic Support. 4 pm.

Saturday, April 30th. TRIO Community Service Day. Join students from all over the state and give back to your community. Location TBD. 9 am.

For more information, call 468-1347, visit www.castleton.edu/academicsupport, like us on Facebook (Castleton Academic Support), or follow us on Twitter (@CastletonTrio).

Study Smarts and Money Smarts: TRIO Star Amanda Larabee

Amanda Larabee1Amanda Larabee
Expected Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies, May 2016

Growing up in Clarksburg, Massachusetts, Amanda Larabee knew she wanted to become a teacher. Amanda’s mother encouraged her daughter to pursue her goals. “It’s K-16, not K-12,” she always said. But the first-generation student knew paying for college would be a challenge.

When Amanda was accepted at Castleton, she threw herself into financing her education, applying for over 60 scholarships as a high school senior. Her hard work paid off: she received more than $16,000 her first year. At Castleton, she researched both personal finance and her financial aid. She always holds two to four part-time jobs to reduce her college debt.

But Amanda’s struggles haven’t kept her from excelling in and out of the classroom. Math has always been difficult for her, so she sought help at Castleton’s Academic Support Center. Again, her efforts paid off. With a cumulative GPA of 3.46, she recently received the Dr. Diane Wolk Scholarships for Promising Educators. She has also been active in the Student Government Association.

Amanda’s ultimate goal is to give back. She aspires to teach first grade in New York City public schools, where she hopes to make a difference in students’ lives beyond the classroom. Today, she serves other TRIO students as a Financial Literacy Peer Educator. She wants to help other students reduce their debt and manage their money.

“Amanda has laid the financial foundation for her future,” said Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Support at Castleton. “She’s gone out of her way to educate herself about managing her money. Students like Amanda are what TRIO is all about.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm